Creating new perspectives since 2009

60 groups call for visa program for Palestinians in Gaza with family in UK

April 4, 2024 at 3:14 pm

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in New York, United States on July 18, 2023. [Fatih Aktaş – Anadolu Agency]

Sixty British organisations and law firms cooperated as part of the “Gaza Families Reunited” initiative urging UK Home Secretary James Cleverly to create a visa programme for Gazans with relatives in the UK.

Modelled after a similar programme for Ukrainian refugees, the letter addresses the inadequacy of current immigration routes which the letter states are “insufficient and not working”. It would “enable family members of Palestinians in the UK to reunite with their loved ones and offer temporary sanctuary until it is safe to return.”

The letter noted that Palestinians seeking entry to the UK must provide biometric data to apply, but the only visa application centres offering this service are located in nearby Egypt.

“Unlike in the case of British nationals, for whom the British government has facilitated evacuation to Egypt, the British government is not facilitating safe passage for Palestinians in Gaza seeking to reunite with their family members in the UK,” the letter added.

Palestinians in Gaza are thus trapped in a catch-22: the British government is demanding that they register biometrics, but it is denying them a viable way of doing so.

“It is in this context that Palestinian families in the UK have called for a Gaza family scheme alongside a permanent and immediate ceasefire.”

Watch: UK considering declaring Israel in violation of international humanitarian law

The letter also asserts that due to this challenge, “two people have been killed while waiting for a decision on their family reunion visa under existing routes.”

Organised by the Gaza Families Reunited campaign, a group of Palestinians from Gaza and migrants’ rights advocates, Refugee Action, the letter was signed by Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, Care4Calais and 75 other groups.

According to the Guardian, hundreds of Palestinian families residing in the UK have turned to fundraising efforts, gathering tens of thousands of pounds, to facilitate the evacuation of their relatives through a private company located in Egypt.

Moreover, a petition advocating for a Palestinian family visa programme has garnered over 62,000 signatures to date. To be eligible for parliamentary debate, it requires a minimum of 100,000 signatures.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are working around the clock to get British nationals who want to leave Gaza. We have a team on the ground in Cairo and at the Rafah crossing providing consular assistance. Any dependents of British citizens who need a visa can apply for one.”

Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip since October 2023, making 85 per cent of its population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Tel Aviv stands accused of genocide at the ICJ, which in January issued an interim ruling that ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.