Gaza Family Scheme

The UK Government must introduce a Gaza Family Scheme to protect Palestinians’ lives and reunite Gazan families until it’s safe to return.

We were pleased to support Gazan Families Reunited’s joint letter to the Government, which was covered in the Guardian, that calls for the creation of this Scheme whilst also upholding the right of return. 

To share your support, please sign this petition and help it reach 100,000 signatures. 

At MRN, we always discuss the causes of displacement and the creation of refugees, which include but are not limited to genocide and colonial legacies. We once again reaffirm our solidarity with all Palestinian refugees and denounce the genocide and settler colonialism they are facing. 

Letter

The Gaza Families Reunited campaign (@GazaFamReunited on Twitter/X) coordinated the below joint letter and sent it to the Home Secretary on 2 April 2024. The letter was drafted in consultation with migrants’ rights (including refugee rights) organisations as well as Palestinians seeking to bring their family members to safety from Gaza.

———

2 Marsham Street 

London 

SW1P 4DF

2 April 2024

Dear Home Secretary,

On behalf of behalf of 75 organisations, law centres, law firms, and funders working in the migrants’ (including refugees’), children’s, and human rights’ sectors across the UK, we are calling for you to urgently create a Gaza Family Scheme to enable family members of Palestinians in the UK to reunite with their loved ones and offer temporary sanctuary until it is safe to return. 

With each passing hour, the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate – both due to bombardment as well as lack of access to food or medication. More than 30,000 people have been killed –  a third of whom are children – with many more remaining uncounted while trapped under the rubble. Palestinians are currently bracing for Israel’s threatened ground assault on Rafah – formerly claimed as a ‘safe zone’ for civilians – in spite of widespread international outcry, including on the part of the British Government.

Existing immigration routes are insufficient and not working. Palestinians eligible under existing routes cannot make an immigration application to be cleared for entry to the UK unless they have enrolled their biometrics. However, the only visa application centres where Palestinians can actually do so are in 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. 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. 

Many families are now being forced to set up crowdfunders in the sum of tens of thousands of pounds to arrange for their loved ones to be evacuated to Egypt by a private company. While it is possible to apply to defer or waive biometric requirements, despite the clearly dangerous (and in some cases, virtually impossible) journey involved in enrolling biometrics in Egypt, almost all of these applications are rejected. Two people have been killed while waiting for a decision on their family reunion visa under existing routes. Even if families are able to pay for their loved ones’ evacuation into Egypt, not all family members are eligible under existing routes and those who are have to pay additional, extortionate visa fees. 

It is in this context that Palestinian families in the UK have called for a Gaza Family Scheme alongside a permanent and immediate ceasefire (supported by 71% of the British public, according to a recent poll). Modelled after the Ukraine Family Scheme, the Gaza Family Scheme would enable Palestinians in Gaza to reunite with their immediate and extended family members in the UK – including their partners, children, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, cousins, grandparents, and in-laws – until it is safe to return. It would also include provision for safe evacuation and biometric waiver/deferral,  as was done for those fleeing Ukraine. Palestinians arriving on this scheme, as with the Ukrainian Family Scheme, would be able to work, study, and access public funds in the UK while they are granted temporary sanctuary here.

Over 56,000 members of the British public have supported a petition calling for a Gaza Family Scheme to be introduced in the UK. In our view, a Gaza Family Scheme is long overdue to protect human life and the right to family unity until it is safe for Palestinians to return. We, therefore, support the Gaza Families Reunited Campaign in its calls for such a scheme to be implemented with urgency.

Best regards,

Signatories

  1. Asylum Support Appeals Project
  2. Bail for Immigration Detainees
  3. BARAC UK
  4. Bates Wells Immigration Department
  5. Birnberg Peirce Ltd
  6. Care4Calais
  7. Children and Families Across Borders
  8. City of Sanctuary UK
  9. Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)
  10. Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu)
  11. Coram Children’s Legal Centre
  12. Counterpoints Arts
  13. Coventry Asylum & Refugee Action Group
  14. Detention Action
  15. Duncan Lewis
  16. Evesham Vale Welcomes Refugees
  17. FODI (Sunderland)
  18. GARAS
  19. Govan Community Project
  20. Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit
  21. Haringey Welcome
  22. Helen Bamber Foundation
  23. Here for Good
  24. Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA)
  25. Islington Law Centre
  26. Jesuit Refugee Service UK
  27. JustRight Scotland
  28. Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights
  29. Leigh Day Immigration and Asylum Team
  30. Manchester Amnesty International group
  31. Medact
  32. Migrant Champions Network
  33. Migrant Democracy Project
  34. Migrants in Culture
  35. Migrants Organise
  36. Migrants’ Rights Network
  37. Migration Exchange
  38. Migration Justice Project, Law Centre NI
  39. Music Action International
  40. New Citizen’s Gateway
  41. North West Migrants Forum
  42. One Life To Live
  43. Orchid of Siam
  44. Paul Hamlyn Foundation
  45. POMOC
  46. Praxis
  47. Rainbow Migration
  48. RAMFEL
  49. RefuAid
  50. Refugee Action
  51. Refugee Council
  52. Refugee Legal Support
  53. Reunite Families UK
  54. Revoke CIC
  55. Right to Remain
  56. Riverway Law
  57. Room to Heal
  58. Safe Passage International
  59. Samphire
  60. Scottish Refugee Council
  61. Social Workers Without Borders
  62. Southeast and East Asian Centre
  63. St Augustine’s Centre, Halifax
  64. Student Action for Refugees (STAR)
  65. the3million
  66. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
  67. The Pickwell Foundation
  68. The Voice of Domestic Workers
  69. Together with Migrant Children
  70. Voices in Exile
  71. Waltham Forest Migrant Action (WFMA)
  72. West London Welcome
  73. West of Scotland Regional Equality Council
  74. Women for Refugee Women
  75. Work Rights Centre
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