Social Justice

Call for MPs to support new Ukraine-style visa scheme for Palestinians trapped in Gaza

Campaigners are calling for Palestinians in Gaza to be reunited with their families in the UK – to protect lives and a right to family life

gaza protest

London protestors calling for an end to war in Gaza. Image: Unsplash

MPs are set to debate a petition calling for the government to introduce a Ukraine-style visa scheme that would allow Palestinians from Gaza to reunite with their families in the UK.

The petition was supported by Gaza Families Reunited Campaign, a grassroots group led by Palestinian families in the UK who have faced harrowing experiences trying to get their loved ones out of Gaza.

It reached more than 100,000 signatures and is due to be debated in parliament on Monday (13 April).

A spokesperson for the Gaza Families Reunited Campaign said: “We call on MPs to attend the debate and to support the creation of a scheme to reunite Palestinian families from Gaza. 

“There have been cases of people who have died in Gaza while waiting for the Home Office to make a decision on their visa application. This urgent scheme could make the difference between life and death for Palestinians seeking to join family in the UK. 

“This is particularly crucial as the dire situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate and more lives are lost, both due to the Israeli military offensive and the siege imposed on Gaza.”

In the days before the petition reached its deadline, the Big Issue published a series of articles speaking to people living in Britain who felt “helpless” and “betrayed” by the UK government.

Roba, a British citizen from Palestine, said: “People always wanted to stay in Gaza, but with how violent this war is and the destruction it has caused, leaving is the only option.”

She felt a deep sense of helplessness when her family was in Gaza. There were days when they lost communication and she did not know whether they were alive.

“It was hell on earth,” Roba, 31, says. “There was continuous bombardment everywhere in each place of displacement. They were facing horrors, continuous bombing and shortage of food, water, medicine, everything.”

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Hala, a company in Egypt, is charging $5,000 for the evacuation of a person over the age of 16 and $2,500 for a child. Roba felt she had no choice but to pay to get them out.

More than 75 organisations, funders and law firms have backed the campaign, calling for sanctuary for Palestinians with UK-based family members until it is safe to return.

The Home Office said it has no plans to set this up – but after the petition reached 100,000 signatures, a debate has to be held in parliament and is scheduled for Monday (13 May).

Last month, the Home Office lost a legal case against two Palestinian families from Gaza, where judges ruled its refusal to consider visa applications that would reunite their families was “irrational”. 

Ahmed told the Big Issue how he has 15 family members trapped in Gaza. Their homes are destroyed. Every day is a mission to survive.

He has lived in the UK for seven years, including while he was studying for a PhD at the University of Cambridge and now as an academic at the University of Dundee.

He wants to be reunited with his family and to ensure their safety in the UK until they can return to Gaza. The Home Office has stopped this, so his only option is to raise thousands to get them into Egypt.

“I face daily frustration, depression and mental health issues,” Ahmed, 32, said. “I thought I was a strong person, but this is taking a serious toll. I feel helpless.”

The spokesperson for the Gaza Families Reunited Campaign said: “Reaching over 100,000 signatures on the petition showcased the extent of solidarity that exists across the UK with members of the Palestinian community in the UK wishing to reunite with their loved ones.

“We hope this will encourage politicians in Westminster to recognise both the public support and urgent need for a viable scheme to reunite Palestinian families from Gaza.”

“The British government has previously offered sanctuary to Ukrainian families. All we are asking is that the same opportunity is afforded to Palestinians fleeing Israeli bombardment and starvation and seeking to reunite with their loved ones.

“The UK government has a moral obligation to create a Gaza Family Scheme to enable Palestinians in the UK to bring their loved ones to safety until it is safe to return.”

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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