PRITI Patel has been forced into a “long overdue U-turn” with a new streamlined process meaning refugees fleeing war in Ukraine will no longer have to queue for visa appointments before coming to the UK.

But the UK Government has been warned the overhaul “does not yet go far enough” as those wishing to come to the UK will still need family connections in Britain and will still need to complete an application in advance, albeit online.

The UK Government has faced severe criticism for the slow pace at allowing refugees access to Britain, amid calls for the vias application process to be temporarily waives, as has been done in EU countries, to allow for a faster movement of people to sanctuary.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said the number of refugees entering the UK would "rise very sharply". 

The Home Secretary told MPs this morning that she had received assurances on security matters which enabled her to make changes to the Ukrainian family scheme.

Ms Patel stressed that “vital security checks will continue on all cases”.

She said: “From Tuesday, I can announce that Ukrainians with passports will no longer need to go to a visa application centre to give their biometrics before they come to the UK.

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

“Instead, once their application has been considered and appropriate checks completed, they will receive direct notification that they’re eligible for the scheme and can come to the UK.”

Ms Patel added: “In short, Ukrainians with passports will be able to get permission to come here fully online from wherever they are and will be able to give their biometrics once in Britain.

“This will mean that visa application centres across Europe can focus their efforts on helping Ukrainians without passports.

“We have increased the capacity at those centres to over 13,000 appointments and the streamlined approach will be operational from Tuesday 15 March in order to make the relevant technology and IT changes.”

Labour shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper labelled the UK’s response to the refugee crisis as “shameful”.

She said: “Why does it always take being hauling into the House of Commons to make basic changes to help vulnerable people who are fleeing from Ukraine?

“People are fleeing for their lives and up to now the response from the Home Office has been a total disgrace – bringing shame upon our country.”

Ms Cooper added: “It is welcome that she is now introducing the online approach that we know they tried different ways of doing things for the Hong Kong visas, but why has it taken so long when she has had intelligence for weeks if not months that she needed to prepare for a Russian invasion of Ukraine?

READ MORE: Boris Johnson insists number of Ukrainian refugees entering UK to 'rise very sharply'

“This has just been shameful. It is deeply wrong to leave people in this dreadful state. Our country is better than this.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that at first glance, the changes appeared to be “a very significant shift towards a position of sanctuary first, paper work second”, stressing that “the UK position until now has been deeply shameful”.

But Ms Sturgeon added that “if it still requires visa applications to be made before travel to UK, it does not yet go far enough”.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he “strongly and wholeheartedly welcome this long-overdue U-turn from the UK Government”.

He added: "Scotland stands ready to welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms. The SNP has consistently called for the UK to have an open door policy, and it is a disgrace that it has taken the Tory government so long to change its position. We now need to see this change implemented without any further delay.

"This is a victory for all those campaigners who have forced the UK Government into a U-turn - and I hope we can now ensure that people fleeing war will get the welcome they deserve.

"Given that Ukrainian refugees will be able to enter the UK from any port or airport, including in Scotland, it's essential that the UK Government works closely with the Scottish Government and devolved governments to ensure a successful approach."