Priti Patel warned that Vladimir Putin might try to use women and children to infiltrate the UK as she defended the decision not to drop security checks on Ukrainian migrants.
he Home Secretary said the British people â€œwill open our homes and our hearts to Ukrainiansâ€ but security could not be compromised.
The European Union has allowed visa-free travel for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, but Ms Patel defended her approach in a speech at the Tory Party spring conference.
The vast majority of those fleeing are women and children, but Ms Patel said it would be â€œnaive and misguidedâ€ to think that Russian agents could not be amongst them.
â€œI have been asked why we couldnâ€™t suspend security checks on people escaping Putinâ€™s war,â€ she told activists in Blackpool.
â€œTimes of conflict emphasise our need to remain watchful. â€
She said â€œa very small number of people can wreak utter havocâ€ and â€œRussia has a history of covert, hostile activityâ€.
â€œI am afraid it is naive and misguided to think that only men can be covert operatives or that refugee flows would not be subjected to some form of exploitation.
â€œThere are those who would come to this country who mean us harm, and who plot to strike at our very way of life.
â€œThe processes that we have put in place closely follow the advice of our intelligence and security services. They mean we can help Ukrainians in need, without making our country less safe. â€
The Homes for Ukraine scheme is now open.
This scheme is for people fleeing the war in Ukraine and who have someone here willing to provide them with a home.
Sponsors and applicants can find out all they need to know and apply online now -homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk pic.twitter.com/rR0qTzRv5I
â€” Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (@luhc) March 19, 2022
The UNâ€™s refugee agency believes more than 3.3 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24, 90% of them women or children.
The latest update from the Home Office showed 8,600 visas have been issued under the UKâ€™s family reunification scheme, out of a total of 53,600 started applications.
The separate Homes For Ukraine scheme allowing Britons to provide accommodation for someone fleeing the war zone opened on Friday.