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Fast track Palestinian refugees, charities urge


They want similar status as that afforded to Ukrainians

Charities are calling for similar resettlement plans for Palestinians as offered to Ukrainians fleeing war.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced as a result of the conflict in Israel and Gaza with the UN saying a humanitarian crisis is unfolding.

The UK offered fast effective safe passage for some 174,000 Ukrainians after Russia invaded the country with charities now calling for a similar scheme for desperate Palestinian refugees.

It is estimated that around one million people have been displaced in the region with this figure set to increase as Israel mount further incursions deeper into Gaza.

The Scottish Refugee Council said the current refugee resettlement scale had to be scaled up to meet the needs of those fleeing Gaza as well as calling on the UK government to “rapidly resolve the protection applications of people from Israel and Palestine who are already in the UK’s asylum system as well as those who are stateless.”

It said: “The UK should plan now to scale up the existing UK Resettlement Scheme in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency, to allow an emergency pathway for people fleeing the region, especially for the most vulnerable, such as children and families, those with severe health needs, as well as those with existing links to residents in Scotland.

“The UK needs to activate its current resettlement system and expand it to deal with humanitarian crises like we are seeing in Gaza or in other troubled parts of the world, rather than create a discrete protection route in response to each crisis.

“We need systems that are proactive and pre-emptive rather than reactionary.”

Safe Passage International, Doctors of the World, Helen Bamber Foundation and City of Sanctuary are backing the move and have raised concerns about the conflict worsening the Palestinian refugee crisis.

Meetings are to be sought with the UK government about the proposals, which are set out in a briefing paper by the Refugee Council and supported by the other organisations.

The organisations envisage that the plans would be subject to security vetting. In the case of a proposed family reunion scheme – under which people affected by the conflict could join family members in the UK – applications would be submitted online by a UK-based family member.

Calls for a UK resettlement scheme for Palestinian refugees have been made in parliament by the leader of the Scottish National party’s Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, who made a direct appeal to Rishi Sunak during prime minister’s questions.

Sunak did not address calls for a resettlement scheme, but did say the UK was “one of the most significant contributors to the United Nations’ efforts to support Palestinian refugees”.

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, has so far rejected the calls.

“We already have a global scheme, which is operated by the United Nations on our behalf and they choose individuals,” he said. “The idea of the cap is that we consult local authorities across the country, better understand what capacity there is, and if there is further capacity then think about increasing a scheme like that so that more people can come.”

Pressed over whether there might be a specific scheme for Palestinians, he said: “At the moment, priority is simply to get the British nationals out of Gaza and to ensure there is as much humanitarian relief there. That’s the first step.

“It’s quite a long way ahead before we could reach the point where we might be able to see more people leaving Gaza. At the moment Egypt, for example, is not willing to admit refugees, and we understand the reasons behind that.”



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