Scotland fights UK government to reunite Palestinian families divided by Israel's war on Gaza

Scotland fights UK government to reunite Palestinian families divided by Israel's war on Gaza
Scottish minister Emma Roddick calls for the current refugee reunion scheme to be expanded to include Palestinian families divided by Israel's war on Gaza.
4 min read
12 April, 2024
Emma Roddick, Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees, on the way to First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament, on December 7 [Getty]

Scotland’s migration minister has urged the UK government to increase the number of Palestinians who are able to join their families as refugees in the country. 

Emma Roddick issued a letter to UK minister Tom Pursglov, in which she emphasised the addition of the Refugee Family Reunion scheme to include "immediate and extended family, including parents, children over 18, siblings and their children".

Currently, only partners and children under-18 are permitted to join their families in the UK. 

Roddick described having heard "harrowing experiences" when meeting Palestinian families in Gaza

"The Scottish Government and the Scottish Refugee Council fully support the aims of the Gaza Families Reunited campaign alongside more than 74,000 people who have signed a public petition as well as more than 75 migrants’ rights organisations and law firms across the UK," she wrote. 

"The campaign calls for a scheme to be opened for relatives of all Palestinians in the UK, not just those with refugee status."

She said this should be extended to include parents, children over 18, siblings and their children.

"Before replying to this letter, I would like to request that you meet with members of the campaign who would be happy to share some of their harrowing experiences with you," she added.

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Roddick also asked that the UK Home Office waive the need to collect biometric data on Palestinians looking to leave Gaza prior to arriving in the UK or before transferring those planning to move to a site where they would apply for the current system. 

She also called on Pursglove to meet with Palestinian families via the UK initiative Gaza Families Reunited, as she did. 

She recounted the story of Doaa, who she said spent six weeks without being able to contact her mother, sister and children, after making a trip to leave northern Gaza towards Rafah on foot. 

She also spoke of the case of Ramy, who lost 200 members of his extended family during Israeli assaults on their homes and shelters.. 

The minister emphasised that she has since received "several hundred" letters from residents asking to migrate to Scotland to seek refuge since the outbreak of Israel’s military offensive on the Palestinian enclave. 

She explained having heard from a father who wrote to Roddick six times and said his 11-year-old daughter was killed by "a lack of specialist food and medical support".

"Acting now to provide a temporary place of sanctuary for Gazans with family in the UK will not only save lives but is fully aligned with the UK’s responsibility to protect civilians and provide humanitarian assistance to those in need," the minister said. 

Roddick pleaded for humanitarian and human rights organisations to facilitate the relocations in response to the UK’s handling of the ongoing Gaza crisis. 

The UK government has since responded following Roddick’s demands: "We are working around the clock to get British nationals, who want to leave, out of Gaza. We have a team on the ground in Cairo and at the Rafah crossing providing consular assistance.

"We currently have no plans to establish a separate route for Palestinians to come to the UK. However, any dependants of British citizens who need a visa, can apply for one."

The Gaza Families Reunited campaign has backed Roddick’s call to action, adding that "the UK Government’s reluctance to create a Gaza Family Scheme is endangering the lives of Palestinians in Gaza and keeping families apart."

The initiative kick-started a petition that called for Westminster to debate the issue of a family scheme for Palestinians, which has since surpassed 90,000 signatures. 

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf has shown his support for the campaign and said that for those who do wish to leave Gaza, Scotland "is open and stands ready to welcome them".