Patrick Christys: Britain's response to the Ukraine refugee crisis does not show we are a racist country

We keep being told that our response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis shows what a racist little country we are. In reality, the opposite is true.

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We keep being told that our response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis shows what a racist little country we are. In reality, the opposite is true.

The We Heart Refugees gang can’t seem to make their minds up about what element of our approach to refugees they don't like. But they won’t let that stop them, will they?

As far as I can tell, they say we’re racist because we’re either too slow to take in Ukrainian refugees, or because people are more inclined to want to take a Ukranian refugee into their homes than one from the Middle East.

Let’s deal with each of those in turn – why are we ‘too slow’ to take in Ukrainian refugees?

Well, could it possibly be because we’ve already accepted a lot of people from other parts of the world?

Could it be that we have around 37,000 asylum seekers and Afghan refugees living in hotels at a cost of £4.7m-per-day?

Could it be that we have 84,000 pending asylum cases on top of that?

The irony here is that we may not have as much room as we’d like for predominantly white Ukrainian refugees because we’ve already taken-in loads of people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

That hardly screams racism to me!

In 2020, the top five most common countries of nationality of people seeking asylum in the UK were Iran, Iraq, Albania, Eritrea, and Sudan. Of all refugees resettled in the UK from January 2010 to December 2020, around 70% were Syrian.

In terms of conventional migration, India very often tops the rankings. Pakistan and Bangladesh also usually come near the top of our lists. That doesn’t appear to be too racist as far as I can tell.

And then there’s the notion that we’re racist because some people would rather take a Ukrainian refugee into their homes than one from, say, Syria. Well, I don’t put that down to racism, I put it down to a variety of very reasonable, understandable and natural factors.

The Ukrainian population is overwhelmingly Christian, in terms of LGBT rights – gays, lesbians and bisexuals are allowed to serve in the military, transgender people are allowed to change gender and there are protections against discrimination in the workplace… although there are other areas such as adoption and marriage where they lag behind the UK.

Crucially, though, they don't have sections of society who want to throw gay people off buildings or execute them…

In terms of women’s rights, Women in Ukraine have equal constitutional rights as men in the economic, political, cultural and social fields, as well as in the family.

So I think there is more of a sense of a shared value system there, perhaps more cultural similarities and then again, it’s natural to be more accepting towards that.

And the vast majority of these refugees are women whose identities are completely known – compare that to the majority of those coming over the Channel. At the end of the day we are asking people to take total strangers into their homes.

Would you feel safer taking a man or a woman? Again, is it unnatural to suggest that people may be more inclined to throw their doors open to the Ukrainians?

In addition, we have to ask why these women are alone? Well, in many cases that’s because their husbands have stayed at home to defend their country, the implication being that they would like to return one day.

So for those more inclined to take in a Ukrainian than a Syrian refugee, could that well be because it appears like a more temporary charitable gesture with the Ukrainians? Again, that’s not an unnatural way to look at things. And there’s certainly no racism involved in that.

There are logical, practical and reasonable reasons why a) we may have been a bit slow to accommodate Ukrainians, and b) why people may feel more inclined to open up their homes to this particular group of refugees. Those reasons are not racist, because we are not a racist country.