John Barnes says UK sees Ukrainian refugees as 'more worthy' amid Gary Lineker row
Former England footballer John Barnes has said people in the UK treat Ukrainian refugees as "more worthy" than others.
He made the suggestion as he defended former teammate Gary Lineker, who is embroiled in a row for referring to Nazi Germany in his criticism of the Home Office's crackdown on Channel crossings.
The government has said anyone caught making the perilous crossing will be deported "in weeks" and banned from ever re-entering the country.
Barnes said that prime minister Rishi Sunak hasn't done enough to ensure a "safe and legal route" for them to come before claiming asylum.
When asked about concerns that people might have about the number of asylum seekers coming to the UK, he told LBC: "Are we worried about Ukrainians coming over?
Watch: Gary Lineker is questioned outside his home as the row between him and the BBC grows
"There are many more Ukrainians coming over and we seem to accept them, and that's going to be a strain on the economy.
"So why do we accept Ukrainians coming over but not other people from Syria and Iraq? I wonder."
He suggested that some refugees are considered to be "more worthy" while language like "rapists, murderers and criminals" is applied more frequently to those who aren't.
When asked if he thought people who decided to open up their homes to Ukrainian refugees had a "bias", he questioned how many of them would take a "Syrian woman and child into their house".
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'Are you suggesting I'm biased for taking Ukrainian refugees into my home?'
Andrew Castle disagrees with former footballer John Barnes - who says the UK considers some refugees more 'worthy' than others - as the Gary Lineker row continues.@officialbarnesy | @AndrewCastle63 pic.twitter.com/O0OZ7v7M5U
— LBC (@LBC) March 12, 2023
Host Andrew Castle revealed that he is hosting a Ukrainian family and said the Homes for Ukraine scheme launched last year "laid out a story that was easily understandable" to people who wanted to help.
"Did I know about Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis? Less so. But that doesn’t mean I should be negatively judged," he added.
It follows polling that shows 88% of people who took in refugees from Ukraine would do so again, while only 3% said they would not.
The polling by civil society organisation More in Common found that 68% of Britons believe the fact that the UK has taken more than 150,000 refugees from Ukraine is a good thing, while only 17% think it is bad.
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It found many hosts were open to hosting people from other countries, with three in 10 saying they would support an Afghan refugee currently in hotel accommodation.
Seven in 10 hosts were ready to house a refugee again, saying they were open to someone from either Afghanistan or Ukraine.
Respondents were less positive about government support, rating it 5.04 out of 10, and rating interactions with local councils after their refugees had arrived at 5.86.
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UK director of More in Common, Luke Tryl, said: "The Homes for Ukraine scheme shows Britain at its absolute best.
"Across the country, tens of thousands of ordinary members of the public have stepped up to offer their home to those fleeing conflict – a far cry from the divisive, polarising debates about immigration and refugees we have heard over the past week.
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"As this research shows, for the overwhelming majority of hosts, over 95% of whom had never been involved in supporting refugees before, the experience has been an immensely positive and enriching one.
"Despite the natural ups and downs of sharing their houses with strangers, hosts are proud to have done their bit and many would do so again.
"The priority now must be to make sure that their good will is not abused and that Ukrainian families who understandably want to find their own space and housing are given the support they need from the government to do so."