BORIS Johnson has insisted that the number of Ukrainian refugees able to enter the UK will “rise very sharply” after being criticised for “raising barriers and bureaucracy” for those fleeing the war.

The UK Government has faced severe criticism for the slow pace refugees are being offered sanctuary in Britain, with a visa still required despite European counties waiving the red tape in a bid to ensure refugees can be sheltered.

This morning, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that only 760 visa approvals have been granted so far – while Poland, which neighbours Ukraine, has taken in more than 1.2 million refugees, Germany is sheltering more than 50,000 people and Ireland has offered accommodation to three times the number in the UK.

Earlier, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, told the Commons Home Affairs Committee, that the visa rules should be waived, at least on a temporary basis, to help facilitate the flow of refugees to the UK.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford labelled the pace shown to allow refugees to enter the UK as “disgraceful”.

He said: “These numbers don’t lie – they tell a devastating truth.

“Does the Prime Minister find it acceptable that his Home Secretary has overseen one of the slowest, one of the most bureaucratic and incompetent refugee responses in the whole of Europe?”

In response, Mr Johnson stressed that his government “wants to do everything we can” to welcome refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and suggested the number of those entering the UK is set to “rise very sharply”.

READ MORE: Ukraine's UK ambassador calls for visa rules to be lifted for refugees

He said: “The numbers are almost 1,000 – they will rise very sharply.

“They are uncapped- we expect those numbers to rise to in the region of hundreds of thousands.”

Mr Johnson added: “As Vladimir Putin doubles down in his attacks, we will go further.

“There will be routes by which the whole country can offer a welcome to vulnerable people fleeing from Ukraine.

“This government has a proud, proud record. We’ve done more to resettle vulnerable people than any other European country since 2015.”

But Mr Blackford warned that he didn’t think the Prime Minster “understands the scale of the challenge or the urgency” required.

He said: “These are people fleeing war crimes – torn apart from their families as their homes are shelled.

“The Home Secretary is blocking them with endless paperwork. This isn’t just incompetence, this is ideology.

“In the face of the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, the UK Government won’t set aside the hostile environment.”

M Blackford added: “We’ve seen this too many times from a Tory Home Office – the Windrush scandal, the ‘go home’ vans, the inhumane Nationality and Borders Bill.

"The UK Home Office is raising barriers and bureaucracy when we should be offering care and compassion.”

The SNP MP called on the Prime Minister to “join with the rest of the European continent and waive the visa restrictions for refugees fleeing war in Ukraine”.

But Mr Johnson told MPs the UK “has an unparalleled record” when it comes to taking in refugees.

He said: “We understand how much refugees have to give to this country and we understand how much this country has to gain from welcoming refugees. We will be generous and we are being generous.

“What we are doing is making sure that in those neighbouring countries, the UK is out in front, giving the humanitarian assistance. We are in every capital.

“This country is leading in every respect. We are also the biggest single donor of humanitarian aid to the Ukraine war zone.”

Conservative former minister Julian Smith urged the Prime Minister to reset the UK Government’s policy on refugees and introduce a “more human approach”.

He said: “I commend the Prime Minister’s response to this Ukrainian crisis, but I think people across the country are genuinely concerned on our response on refugees, on the bureaucracy, on the tone of our response.

“He has shown with vaccines that Government change really comes from the very top. Please, can I urge him to look at again on resetting our policy and taking control of a more humane approach to those women and men fleeing from Ukraine?”

In response, Mr Johnson said: “I hope he will have heard what I have just said in my earlier answer to the leader of the SNP, which is that this Government has done, I think, unlike any other in our understanding of what refugees can give and the benefits to this country.

“We have done more than any other to resettle vulnerable people since 2015.

"I think there is a huge opportunity now for us to do even more, that’s why my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, will be setting out a route by which the British people, not just the family reunion route which can run into the hundreds of thousands, but also a route by which everybody in this country can offer a home to people fleeing Ukraine.”