Palestinians: Visa Scheme — [Martin Vickers in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 5:07 pm ar 13 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Chair, Human Rights (Joint Committee), Chair, Human Rights (Joint Committee) 5:07, 13 Mai 2024

Cynically, I am not particularly baffled by it, because I know that this Government have a strange attitude towards their international legal obligations in relation to refugees. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, which I chair, has commented on that. The weight of the evidence we took from a number of different sources was that this Government do not really properly respect their obligations under the international treaties that they are signed up to—so, cynically, I am not baffled but I would like to know the Minister’s reason for that.

Whatever the reason, the reality is that, as the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood said, these people are in a Catch-22 situation. Of course, the Rafah crossing is now closed and the situation is rapidly deteriorating, which makes this request all the more urgent, but even those who, like my constituent’s mother, manage to get to Egypt are trapped in limbo once they are there; they cannot join their loved ones in the UK, for reasons I have already outlined, and they also lack access to state support to rebuild their lives, meaning that many of those who have fled the war are now living in uncertainty and destitution in Egypt.

In addition to the questions I have already posed to the Minister today, I want to ask him: when will the British Government facilitate the safe evacuation of people applying under existing routes, both now and in the longer term? If they will not do so, why not? Why will they not set up a bespoke route for Palestinians in Gaza to reunite with their immediate and extended family in the UK, including a waiver or deferral of the biometric requirements, until it is safe to return? What is the justification for not setting up the short-term scheme that we envisage? Does the Minister acknowledge the United Kingdom’s historic debt to the Palestinian people, and what, in their most dire hour of need, is he going to do about it?