UK refugee minister resigns as job 'essentially complete'

Lord Harrington said his decision means the next prime minister can 'save' on a ministerial position

Ukrainians gather in Whitehall, central London, for Ukrainian Independence Day celebrations on August 24. Getty Images
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The British government’s minister for refugees has resigned, saying that his job is “essentially complete” after the sudden influx of people fleeing Ukraine.

Lord Richard Harrington insisted it was the right time to leave what he called a “temporary” position.

The refugees’ minister role was set up after the war in Ukraine started. While the pace of Ukrainian arrivals to the UK has slowed, the war has not.

People working with refugees fear Ukrainians face becoming homeless over the winter.

There is also an array of refugee-related issues for the country, most notably the 26,000 people — and counting — who have crossed the English Channel this year looking for asylum.

The resignation on Sunday comes one day before the name of the next Tory party leader is announced and two days before either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss is made prime minister and replaces Boris Johnson.

Lord Harrington said his decision means the next prime minister can “save” on a ministerial position.

“We now have the permanent machinery in place to deal with human misery coming to this country from wherever they come from without the need for a designated minister to be in charge,” he said.

“With monthly reports for the secretary of state, whoever he or she may be, there should now be a permanent delivery mechanism.

“Never again will we have people arrive in the UK and go into hotels without a plan, as happened with those coming from Afghanistan and from the Ukraine, where at the beginning we didn't have any idea where to put them all.”

He said he will take on a voluntary role helping refugees after he leaves government.

More than 100,000 Ukrainians have arrived in the UK since the invasion began.

“I was brought in to do a very specific job, which was to set up working machinery across government to deal with helping the Ukrainians in need,” Lord Harrington said.

“I believe we now have a process and procedure in place that means there won't necessarily be the need for a minister like myself.

“I'm not walking out on the role or either candidate and will continue to support where helpful. But what I was specifically asked to do is essentially complete so it seems right that I make clear to both leadership contenders that they may be able to save on a ministerial post when they take over.

“Or at least have the option to shape the role for the next phase with a new person now I've established a successful system.”

The former Conservative MP said he had spoken to Number 10 and about Tory leadership candidates before publicly confirming his decision.

Updated: September 04, 2022, 3:42 PM