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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 7:01 pm ar 13 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Minister of State (Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery) 7:01, 13 Mai 2024

It is a fact that all those individuals leaving French shores in small boats are leaving what are fundamentally safe countries. There is no justifiable reason for anybody to be making that perilous crossing and putting their life at risk in the way that we have seen. There have been catastrophic consequences yet again: only within the past fortnight, that young girl lost her life in the most appalling of circumstances. Evil criminality is responsible for that, and we must be very careful in everything that we say and do to ensure that the evil individuals responsible for that criminality are not able to encourage people to make those crossings. That is a very important point.

Let me return to the point I was making. Decisions as to who can leave Gaza and enter Egypt remain with the Israeli and Egyptian authorities. We will obviously keep the position under review, as I have said. There are a couple of challenges that we have to be mindful of: first, the practical challenges that are apparent in getting people out; and secondly, the need to maintain biometric checks to protect people here in the United Kingdom.

I think that the House will recognise that the security relationship with, for example, the Ukrainian authorities is very different from the one we have with the authorities in Gaza, who are a terrorist organisation. I have referred to that previously in various other debates in the House. There is an important distinction, which has to be made, regarding the security co-operation we had in the context of the immediate evacuation from Ukraine of vulnerable people via that safe and legal route; we have subsequently reintroduced the biometric checks required, but in the immediate circumstances with which we were presented, that security relationship and dynamic helped us make those changes in response to that very specific crisis.

I will say a little more about those challenges because they are materially important. First, on enrolling biometrics, setting up a route would not address the wider challenges facing people unable to exit Gaza to complete the application process by submitting biometrics. Any change to the biometric requirements would cause critical identity and security checks to not be completed, which could expose the UK public to heightened levels of harm. Regardless of that, it would not address the fact that it is the Israeli and Egyptian Governments who make decisions on who can exit Gaza and enter Egypt.

There is a strong basis for why biometric checks are vital. As I say, they are critical to identity assurance and suitability checks on foreign nationals subject to immigration control. Checks are made against immigration and criminality records. We have a duty to uphold national security as a Government and to guard against public safety risks. There have been various references to ongoing litigation. The House will understand why it is not appropriate for me to comment on ongoing litigation.