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Scotland’s Migration Minister Emma Roddick calls for more safe routes for Palestinians fleeing Gaza

By Val Sweeney

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Scotland's Migration Minister Emma Roddick is calling for the UK Government to allow more people from Gaza to come to the UK.
Scotland's Migration Minister Emma Roddick is calling for the UK Government to allow more people from Gaza to come to the UK.

Scotland’s Migration Minister is calling on the UK Government to allow more Palestinian people fleeing Gaza join their families in the UK.

Emma Roddick has written to UK minister Tom Pursglove urging the Refugee Family Reunion scheme be extended to include immediate and extended family, including parents, children over 18, siblings and their children.

The current system allows only for partners and children under 18 to join family in the UK.

It comes amid ongoing calls by Inverness doctor Dr Salim Ghayyda for more help and support to be given to British Palestinians such as himself to evacuate their families from Gaza to safety amid the ongoing Israel Hamas war.

'My family are at risk of dying any second': Doctor's plea to save family in Gaza

Inverness doctor to be reunited with parents

Dr Ghayyda, a consultant paediatrician at Raigmore Hospital, was reunited with his elderly parents, a sister and nephew in Egypt this week.

The four were able to cross the border safely thanks to generous donations from members of the public who supported an ongoing crowdfunding appeal.

But 28 immediate family members, including an 18-month-old niece, remain living as refugees in Gaza where they are at risk of dying from Israeli bombardment, dehydration, starvation or widespread disease.

He and other British Palestinian families have also been lobbying politicians to give more help in the same way refugees from countries such as Ukraine have been helped.

Paediatric consultant Salim Ghayyda was reunited with his parents, sister and nephew this week.
Paediatric consultant Salim Ghayyda was reunited with his parents, sister and nephew this week.

Ms Roddick, who is also an MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has written to Tom Pursglove, the UK Minister for Legal Migration, suggesting he meets families of people stuck in Gaza and hear their “harrowing” experiences.

She recently met representatives of the Gaza Families Reunited campaign, a group of over 350 Palestinian families across the UK who are seeking to bring their close family members to a place of safety.

“It is hard to conceive of the extreme trauma they continue to experience on a daily basis knowing that their family members could be killed at any moment,” she wrote.

“The group I met with stressed that they do not wish to bring their relatives to the UK permanently. Gaza remains their homeland.

“Instead, they are calling on the UK Government to establish a Gaza Family Scheme similar to the Ukraine Family Scheme which has seen over 57,000 people join their family members in the UK between March 2022 and the scheme’s closure in February 2024 (data as of 25 March 2024).”

Ms Roddick also called for the Home Office to waive the need for biometric data to be collected for Gazans looking to leave before they arrive in the UK, or to transfer those trying to come here to a site where they can make an application under the current system.

She said it had been reported this week that two people have been killed while waiting for a decision on their family reunion visa under existing routes..

“Since October of last year, I have received several hundred letters from people in Gaza pleading to be granted asylum in Scotland,” she wrote.

“Many of these individuals have family in Scotland and an existing connection to the UK.

“It has been heartbreaking to reply to these individuals saying that only the UK Government can grant visas and there are no current plans to open a scheme.”

She added: “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.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “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.”

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