THE Tory Minister for “Safe and Legal Migration” has come under intense fire after he said that Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion could apply to pick fruit on British farms.

Kevin Foster, who serves under Priti Patel in the Home Office, made the comment on Saturday evening in response to calls from one Labour MP to “urgently sort out a simple sanctuary route” for Ukrainian people forced out of their home.

Luke Pollard, the MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, had taken to Twitter to criticise the UK Government for holding out in the face of calls to open up safe migration routes for people affected by Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

READ MORE: Scotland waits with ‘open arms’ as UK continues to stall on visas for Ukrainians

He wrote: “It's simply immoral that the Home Office is still applying normal visa restrictions to those fleeing Ukraine.

“Ministers need to urgently sort out a simple sanctuary route to the UK for all who need it. This is our moral duty. #StandWithUkraine”

Pollard’s tweet had likely been passed around Labour MPs, as shadow foreign secretary David Lammy also posted a near-identical statement.

In response, the Home Secretary said the claim was “simply untrue” and said people should “get the facts” from the UK Government website.

The page to which Patel shared a link makes clear that there are as yet no concessions for Ukrainians except if they are “family members of British nationals” or in the UK already on another visa.

Highlighting the inconsistency, Pollard replied: “Sorry, but that’s not correct. I’m looking for a route for people fleeing Ukraine who might not have a family link in the UK. We have a moral obligation to help them. Will you now change policy to do exactly that?”

READ MORE: Huge support for petition urging Priti Patel to give Ukrainian refugees safe passage to UK

Patel did not respond, but Foster, who also represents a Devon constituency - Torbay, did in her place.

The Tory Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Safe and Legal Migration wrote: “Hi Luke, As you will be well aware there are a number of routes, not least our seasonal worker scheme you will recall from your Shadow DEFRA days, which Ukrainians can qualify for, alongside the family route for those with relatives here.”

The UK seasonal worker scheme is currently only open to applications to work in “edible horticulture” such as picking fruit and vegetables. Successful applicants will need a UK sponsor and “at least £1270” in the bank, and will be allowed to work for six months.

Pollard replied: “If your hot take on the refugee crisis is to say that those fleeing war in Ukraine can pick fruit in February on farms in Britain I think you may need to think again.

“We need a proper safe route to sanctuary for people fleeing Ukraine. This is not it.”

Foster deleted his original tweet, writing a second which said only: “Hi Luke, It's just one of several routes and we will do more as the PM has made clear.”

The outrage sparked by the Tory’s original suggestion, with Philip Proudfoot, the leader of the English “Northern Independence Party”, shared Foster’s post, writing: “He has now deleted this tweet. But if there is even a drop of justice left in the world, then this will end his career.”

Labelling the Tory MP “spineless”, LibDem councillor Chris Wray said it was “real generous … to let people not die in return for picking your dinner”.

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart said the post had been "awful" and branded Foster "crass".

Lammy said the messaging showed a "shameful moral vacuum at the heart of government".

Even his own colleagues seem to have been critical of Foster’s message, with one Tory source telling HuffPost: “I’m afraid Foster is a few fruit pickers short of a harvest.”

The Home Office is under pressure from all sides of the political spectrum to open up safe visa routes for Ukrainians fleeing the war in their nation, with the First Minister urging the Tories to take action “immediately”.