Immigration minister raises issues over visa scheme for Palestinians to come to UK

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Immigration minister raises issues over visa scheme for Palestinians to come to UK

MPs from across all parties have spoken in support of a Ukraine-style scheme to allow Palestinians with families in the UK to escape the conflict in Gaza

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

MPs debate UK Gaza family reunion scheme in Westminster Hall
MPs debate UK Gaza family reunion scheme in Westminster Hall

Immigration minister Tom Pursglove has said calls for the UK Government to set up a Gaza family visa scheme for Palestinians to come to this country would be kept “under review” during a debate in Westminster.

Responding to a succession of speeches from MPs demanding the launch of a Ukraine-style scheme to allow Palestinians to escape the conflict in Gaza by reuniting with their families in the UK, Pursglove said decisions as to who can leave Gaza and enter Egypt remain with the Israeli and Egyptian authorities. 

He added:”I think that the House will recognise that the security relationship with, for example, the Ukrainian authorities is very different from the one we have with the authorities in Gaza, who are a terrorist organisation.”

Speaking to a packed Westminster Hall he added:”There is an important distinction, which has to be made, regarding the security co-operation we had in the context of the immediate evacuation from Ukraine of vulnerable people via that safe and legal route; we have subsequently reintroduced the biometric checks required, but in the immediate circumstances with which we were presented, that security relationship and dynamic helped us make those changes in response to that very specific crisis.”

He added: “Any change to the biometric requirements would cause critical identity and security checks to not be completed, which could expose the UK public to heightened levels of harm. Regardless of that, it would not address the fact that it is the Israeli and Egyptian Governments who make decisions on who can exit Gaza and enter Egypt.”

The debate was sparked by a successful petition run by the Gaza Families Reunited campaign, which attracted over 100,000 signatures.

Labour MP Cat Smith opened the debate saying that displaced people face a “grim lottery” for asylum support from the UK Government.

But she added:”I thank Noah Katz, who chairs Lancaster and Lakes Jewish Community in my constituency, for giving time and sharing how we can advocate for peace rather than stoking division, as well as our common views on the need to see hostages released and a ceasefire. 

“Although the Jewish community in Lancaster is small, it has strong links with friends and family in Israel. In the seven months since 7 October, they have provided support for local Jewish families. 

“The local Jewish community has adopted the Bibas family, as part of the “Seder Seat For a Hostage” campaign by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. I thank Noah for the way they support Jewish families in Lancaster, including my own.”

In less measured words Afzal Khan MP accused the Conservative Government of being ” content with sitting on their hands, watching the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians left in Rafah suffer and wait to be killed without offering refuge.”

The SNP’s Anne McLaughlin MP also said:“The majority of people I speak to are stunned into silence when they discover that we’re not helping people escape Gaza.”

Tory MP Mark Logan added:”People have fled to Rafah, which pretty much maps on to the same area as Heathrow airport; it has been referred to as a city of children. Action needs to be taken. We can do more, as a country and a people, for the people of Gaza and Palestine in this time of need.”

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