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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 6:42 pm ar 13 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:42, 13 Mai 2024

Somebody asked me earlier what a Westminster Hall debate is. I told them that, quite often in Westminster Hall, it is when everybody comes together to agree and disagree with the Minister, and so it has proven today.

We have come together in this place, cross-party, to agree that there must be a Gaza families reunion scheme, allowing people to come out of the hellish, unimaginable war zone of Gaza to get to safety with those they love here in the UK. I think every street in my constituency has written to me on this. More than 3,000 people have written to me on the ongoing situation in Gaza to call for a ceasefire, the return of hostages, for aid to get in and for a lasting peace and a two-state solution. The Government have not done anything practical to respond to the concerns raised by our constituents.

A constituent, Sama, came to see me in November. She has been studying and working in Glasgow and is desperately afraid for her family, who were living in the north of Gaza. They have been moved and displaced multiple times—she does not know how many times because she cannot contact them. She cannot hear from them and does not know at any given time where they are or whether they are safe. The last time I heard from her they were in Rafah, which does not bode well for their ongoing safety, given what is going on. She wants her mother, father and teenaged brother to come to Scotland to be safe with her. That should not be too much to ask.

I wrote to the Foreign Secretary and got the boilerplate reply, as many others have done. It was not even from the Foreign Secretary, but from the Minister of State, Lord Ahmad, and it did nothing to help my constituent. As my hon. Friend Peter Grant said, it is difficult even to give these constituents replies from this Government, because they do nothing to offer them any comfort whatsoever. I appealed to the aid agencies on the ground in desperation to ask whether there was anything that they could have done to help, but they regretted that they could not; they did not have those powers.

Sama’s father has a severe heart condition. He has high blood pressure and diabetes and cannot get the medication he needs. As John McDonnell said so eloquently, there are no hospitals there either to help him get the treatment that he needs. The home that this family had built for 30 years lies in rubble and ruin. Sama showed me with pride pictures of what that house looked like the last time that they were all together in it.

Why is it that I have no answer that I can give to Sama to bring her family to safety? She knows that there is no safe and legal route, and other Palestinian constituents who were in touch also have no certainty. One applied for asylum back in December 2022 and is still waiting for a response. They are not going to send him back there: grant him the security that he needs. Another gentleman has been in the UK for 18 years and as yet has no certainty about his status. As Sama put it to me after one of my surgeries, “There is no money, there is no food, there is no ceasefire. There is no hope for those living in Gaza.”

More than 35,000 are dead and 80,000 are injured. The Gaza Families Reunited campaign has brought a very reasonable request before the Minister, and I commend it for all the work that it has done on this. I will say something about the practicalities of what it proposes. Hon. Members across this Chamber have said that existing routes do not cut it and are not working. Family reunion visas, visitor visas and student visas are not working at all.