Tynwald supports Ukrainian sovereignty, democracy, independence and territorial integrity; condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine; is committed to fully supporting international sanctions against Russia; and further supports the protection of refugees and humanitarian relief in Ukraine.
As a Crown Dependency, the ability of the Isle of Man to affect or influence global events is very limited.
The UK represents us on the international stage, and is responsible for our defence.
We have no military to deploy, no diplomats to withdraw or to expel, and we can’t support interventions at the UN.
But this does not mean that we should remain silent on the terrible events we are seeing unfold in Ukraine.
Our voice, though small, should also be heard amongst the chorus of international condemnation of Russian aggression against the Ukrainian people.
That is why this motion is on the Order Paper today – to give all Members the opportunity to express their own thoughts and feelings, and to reflect the views of their constituents, on these grave circumstances.
This isn’t something we would normally do. We do not conduct foreign policy and we do not normally comment on world events. But with the strength of feeling in the Chamber, and in the Island more widely, it feels like the right thing to do.
I would like to add that I am indebted to the Honourable Member for Council Mr Henderson for agreeing to second the motion, as he had originally intended to put on the Order Paper the motion in his own name.
Although we are not able to influence events in Ukraine, we can do two things.
Firstly, we can ensure that we are aligned with international measures being undertaken to deal Russia a heavy economic blow, in the hope that this will influence the Russian leader, and those around him, by hurting the Russian elite financially.
Secondly, we can offer a safe haven for those who are fleeing the conflict.
I will elaborate on the action we have taken so far, and also what we are planning for the future.
The first thing we did was to send financial aid.
The immediate need was very clear, hundreds of thousands – now millions - of women, children, and elderly people, had crossed the border into neighbouring countries. They were displaced, and in need of immediate support.
Within days we had allocated £500,000 to the Disasters Emergency Committee Appeal, and many people in our local community contributed by providing goods – food, clothing and medical supplies – and of course importantly money to the Appeal.
In addition, we also ensured that sanctions measures imposed by the UK were implemented and effective in the Isle of Man. This means that assets were frozen, and travel bans imposed – immediately.
We also took steps to ascertain whether any of the aircraft or yachts on our Aircraft and Ship registers, were owned by or linked with those who have been sanctioned.
This has resulted in 16 aircraft having had their registration cancelled so far, as well as two superyachts which have been removed and in both these areas our Island acted swiftly against the global sanctions list – in anticipation of the UK list being updated.
The Financial Supervision Authority has written to all regulated and supervised entities, to ensure that they are aware of their sanctions obligations and exercising increased vigilance and enhanced monitoring.
The UK is also progressing its Economic Crime Bill, and that will impact on us. There will be a legal requirement for property in the UK owned by overseas interests, including those connected to the Isle of Man, to be entered onto a register. Our Treasury Minister met with UK Ministers responsible for the Bill on Wednesday and discussed its implications. The meeting was positive and we also re-affirmed our commitment, alongside our colleagues in the Channel Islands, to creating an open and publicly accessible register of beneficial ownership for legal entities, delivered in line with the agreed timetable.
That is the economic and commercial response.
But what of the human side?
We have seen the huge numbers of refugees fleeing the conflict into Poland and other neighbouring countries.
We want to make sure that we can offer a safe place for those who have had their homes taken from them.
This might be on a temporary, or on a longer term basis.
We have already mirrored the UK visa route which allows for those with family members to come to the Island.
That route or pathway has already been widened in scope to take less close family members, and the UK has announced that it will be widened further to allow for friends to come. Again, we will mirror that.
Similarly, the UK announced yesterday that they will be allowing for individuals to sponsor refugees with whom they have no connections. That will require individuals to register as a sponsor, and they will then be matched with people who need a home.
Isle of Man officials are working with their opposite numbers in the UK in relation the UK registration and matching process both in terms of coverage of the Isle of Man and also so ensure it work for us.
The UK have also stated that they will look to open up this matching scheme further, at a later stage, to allow for community groups such as churches and NGOs to sponsor individuals as well.
I would stress that whilst we will be mirroring UK pathways, we are also looking urgently at an approach which does not rely on the UK’s schemes and processes as we do not want bureaucracy to get in the way of helping those in need.
The feeling from people in our community to want to provide that humanitarian help and support is so strong.
We have had over 260 offers of help, this is mostly offers of accommodation, but also some offers of financial support and for household items.
We recognise the urgency to help those fleeing war and devastation to be able to get to the safe haven that our Island can offer, as soon as possible. Thus we are working with both officers in the UK and elsewhere to find ways to facilitate this.
We are mindful that our efforts will need to be coordinated with the UK, but we want to be sure we have explored all the options – including working with others – to be clear that we have done our best to help as quickly as possible.
Over the weekend we asked the public to come forward to let us know if they feel they may be able to offer a home to any Ukrainian refugees who may wish to come to the Island.
And as I have said we have already had over 260 responses.
As I have mentioned, this is in line with UK proposals, but it also takes into account the advice we have received from our partners in the One World Centre, some of whom have worked with refugees previously. That advice was that finding homes in our community is the best way to help those in need.
Government will offer support, and act as a facilitator, both for refugees and for those who take them in – that support will extend to those who follow the family or friends route, and those who take the sponsor, or matching, route.
In common with the UK and the EU the Isle of Man will adopt the principle of enabling access to healthcare, education, benefits, and to work, for those who come, and support to help them to acclimatise to a new culture and learn the English language, if that is needed. And cross-departmental work underway to develop this.
Although these routes are not yet open, we believe that they will be on Friday, and we want to be ready. We are building the resource which will sit behind this, in readiness to receive and welcome those who wish to come to our Island.
This action will prepare us for the short term, but further down the line, there is a distinct possibility that the numbers will increase significantly. So in the medium to long term, we are also considering how additional numbers might be accommodated.
Alongside the efforts we can make to help, we also need to consider the longer term risks to the Island.
Russia is a major supplier of gas and oil to the world energy market, and although we do not have any direct exposure to Russian suppliers, the market has been significantly impacted by the war, and prices have risen sharply.
In addition, Ukraine supplies one-eighth of the world’s grain – again, this will have a significant impact on food prices, which we already see increasing.
From an economic perspective, the shock of war in Europe, and the impact of the economic sanctions as they begin to bite will be felt across the economy.
And we cannot ignore the fact that sanctions will also impact the UK and Isle of Man economy, as well as dealing a blow to the Russian elite.
All of these issues will need to be factored into our longer term planning.
As I said earlier, we wouldn’t normally look to comment on world events, but I don’t think we should be afraid to do so.
And I hope that by proposing this motion we can hear from Honourable Members, and they can place their views on the record.
We have a long tradition of parliamentary democracy in the Isle of Man.
We may not have the loudest voice, but we can join the international community condemning the violent actions of the Russian regime in Ukraine, and to try our best to lend our support to those in need, as best we can.
To those in need, it is my sincere hope that we will be able to offer some hope and comfort, here on our Island
Mr President, I beg to move…