HUMZA Yousaf has backed a campaign calling for a family reunion scheme to enable Palestinians in Gaza to reunite with their loved ones in the UK.

The Gaza Families Reunited campaign is calling on the UK Government to create a scheme – building on the Ukraine Family Scheme – to provide temporary sanctuary to Palestinians and reunite families until it is safe to return to Gaza.

The First Minister said Scotland has a “proud history” of welcoming refugees and those seeking asylum.

“Gaza does of course belong to the people of Gaza, they must not be forced to leave,” he said.

“However, for those who need refuge and sanctuary then Scotland is open and stands ready to welcome them.”

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Yousaf added: “I welcome the Gaza Families Reunited campaign and support their call for the UK Government to deliver a family reunion scheme as soon as possible.”

The SNP leader has previously called for a UK-wide refugee resettlement scheme for those affected by the war.

Yousaf’s wife’s parents, Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla were also among a number of British nationals who were trapped in Gaza after October 7 – before arriving back in the UK in November (below).

The National: Humza Yousaf with his parents-in-law Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla

Currently, those wishing to evacuate from Gaza have to cross the border into Egypt given that the visa application centre in Gaza is currently not functional.

Hala, an Egyptian company, is charging Palestinians as much as £5000 per person to flee – gouging its prices 14-fold since the war began.

“People in Gaza face insurmountable obstacles when trying to evacuate to Egypt and have received minimal - if any - support from the UK Government to do so,” a spokesperson for the campaign said.

“We are asking for the UK Government to swiftly open safe, viable routes because existing options are limited, costly and are simply not working.”

‘Nothing can happen with the current visa system’

AHMED Alagha (to the right below with his two brothers, nieces and nephews) moved to Scotland on October 2 to be a postdoctoral researcher at Dundee University after receiving his PhD from Cambridge.

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All of his immediate 16 family members – his parents and siblings as well as their spouses and children – are living in tents in Al-Mawasi, one of the shrinking areas of Gaza that Israel has designated as a “safe zone”.

“I feel I am living in a nightmare - a never-ending nightmare. It's a vicious cycle that never ends.

“And sadly, nothing can happen now with the current visa system.”

He added: “I have exhausted all available options that the UK Government would allow someone like me to bring family members.”

Ahmed explained that he had enough on February 20 when his cousin was killed by the Israeli forces as he was sheltering in a building.

“He literally was killed in front of his six-year-old son, in front of his mum, his wife. In front of my nieces and nephews. He was just a metre away from my brother.”

He was a cousin as well as a close friend to Ahmed and upon hearing the news, he decided that enough was enough and set up a fundraiser to raise enough money to pay to get his family members across the border to Egypt.

He has currently raised £27,000 of the nearly £85,000 to facilitate a secure passage for his family. You can donate to the fundraiser here.

Ahmed said that he hasn’t yet told his family about it.

“I don't want to give them hope until I am sure I can do something,” he said.

The academic calls on the UK Government to step in, however.

“The double standard (compared with the Ukraine scheme) is very clear. It is very evident to everyone.

“Why do we need to keep fighting and fighting and fighting for our families to get out?”

Doaa, meanwhile, has lived in Glasgow for five years with her husband and daughter.

She told the Sunday National about the horror of the last six months as her entire family – from her mother and her siblings to the whole extended family – are trapped in Rafah with 1.5 million other Palestinians.

“The humanitarian situation is dire. There is no access to any kind of basic needs,” she said.

“Every day, we are hearing of the loss of somebody that we know and we don't want this to affect our families.”

The third-sector worker added: “But it's impossible to get anyone outside of Gaza unless you pay.

"So I decided not to do a fundraising campaign. My belief is my family deserves protection and respect which is why I'm involved with this campaign.”

“We pay tax, we are contributing to this country. And we deserve for our families to be protected in a similar way to the Ukrainian scheme.”

Roba is part of the Gaza Families Reunited campaign. She used a fundraiser to cover the costs for her family to travel but said it was a “shame” that people are having to resort to that.

“It reflects the UK ideology of not caring about Palestinian life. They see us as worthless rather than people who should be protected and saved.

“I feel it reflects this racism in the political structure.”

The need for public support

A PETITION calling for the establishment of a family visa scheme has so far garnered over 40,000 signatures and Anne McLaughlin told the Sunday National that all the public support is needed.

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The SNP MP hosted the Gaza Families Reunited campaign in Westminster (above) this week to discuss the difficulties Palestinians from Gaza face when trying to reunite with their families.

“Morally, there is no argument against it. They have no choice. There’s nothing there. There’s no infrastructure, no service. For many people, there’s no food,” she said.

“They just want to keep them safe until it's safe to go back and I don't think that's too big an ask.”

McLaughlin added: “The problem is getting this government or potentially the next government to agree to it. That's going to be difficult and it won't happen without public pressure.”

She said that with the Ukraine scheme, there was an “immense flurry” of movement and that the same was needed here.

“But in Westminster, you can say these things to people and it's like there's a brick wall between you.

“They say yes and use these stock responses and you just feel like saying, 'these are human beings'.

“These are human beings and you can do something.”