THE Scottish Government has been putting pressure on the UK Government to step in and help rehome refugees from war-torn Gaza.

First Minister Humza Yousaf offered the use of Scottish hospitals to treat injured Palestinian civilians a month ago, and Scotland’s Social Justice Secretary penned a letter to then home secretary Suella Braverman, asking her to use the UK Government’s resettlement scheme to assist those fleeing the escalating conflict.

Shirley-Anne Somerville wrote: “I call on the UK Government to use the already established UK Resettlement Scheme, which works with the UN High Commission for Refugees, to allow a route to safety for the most vulnerable such as children and families, those with severe health needs, and those with links to residents in Scotland.”

But the call has fallen on deaf ears, with a Home Office spokesperson saying the UK’s approach shouldn’t be on a “crisis-by-crisis” basis.

But what would a Scottish resettlement scheme for Gaza refugees look like? 

Alison Phipps, a professor at the University of Glasgow, told the Sunday National that one of the first things to consider is that many Palestinians are already refugees who lost their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and were forced to relocate to the Gaza Strip.

Under the protection of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) since then, many Palestinians see the organisation as a symbol of international commitment towards helping Palestinians one day return to the lands that they were forced to vacate 75 years ago.

The "right of return" is integral to Palestinian identity, which explains why many refuse to leave northern Gaza despite the threat to their lives under Israeli bombardment. It would also pose the question of whether many would even want to resettle in Scotland.

From an international law perspective, Phipps explained that UNRWA would first have to cease to exist – which is possible under article 1D of the Refugee Convention if they became unable to continue their assistance to the Palestinian refugees.

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The organisation’s commissioner said last Thursday that this was a “risk”. If so, the UN Refugee Agency would step in.

Before Scotland could start taking refugees, however, the border with Egypt would have to be opened and the Scottish Government would also need the go-ahead from Westminster. In other words, more than a couple of hurdles.

That being said, Phipps said that she believes that the UK Government could potentially be lobbied over a “quota for Palestinian refugees”.

She said: “They would then accept the First Minister's generous offer of saying we will take refugees from the Gaza Strip. With Humza Yousaf saying he would want to take people who are particularly vulnerable or who are injured, it would be very like the Syrian scheme.”

The Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, which was launched in January 2014, saw the UK resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees who required urgent medical treatment, as well as survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk.

She added that it would also have a variety of differences compared with the Ukraine scheme.

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“The Ukraine scheme is, in many ways, a very good one. But the Ukraine scheme was not for refugees. It was for people with humanitarian protection, who could also travel backwards and forwards. That may or may not be the case with Palestinian refugees,” Phipps said.

She added: “With Ukraine, very few of them actually directly experienced war. They are traumatised by what is happening back home, but it's almost a secondary trauma. Whereas what we've got with Palestinians is some of the worst things we have ever seen in our lifetime.”

Phipps went on: “What everybody has to understand is that if the people you take are people who are highly traumatised – who come from situations of torture, long-term imprisonment or loss of limb – the work of integration requires a different level of effort. And it's very good if we step up as a rich country to do that.”

Phipps said that she certainly believes the prospect of a scheme for Gaza refugees would be very possible in Scotland.

She said: “We can do it. We have done it across all 32 local authorities, as happened with Ukraine and Syria. We've built a lot of capacity in communities. But we also need to understand the specific needs of the Palestinian population. They would be Palestinian Scots but have a dual-citizenship of sorts because the right of return is so fundamental to Palestinian existence.”

The Scottish Government was contacted for comment but the Sunday National was referred back to the letter sent by Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville on October 27.