TWO Palestinians died in Gaza waiting for the Home Office to waive or defer UK visa fingerprint rules so they could be reunited with their families.

In most circumstances, when someone applies for a long-term UK visa outside of the UK, they need to give their biometrics – fingerprints and a photograph – at a visa application centre (VAC) for security reasons.

Given there is no functioning visa centre in Gaza, 157 Palestinians asked for an exemption – either for the rules to be waived or pre-determined – meaning fingerprints can be taken at an interim visa centre such as the one in Egypt.

But none of their applications were approved by the Home Office between October 7 and February 29 according to a letter from the Government Legal Department – which the Sunday National has seen.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf backs campaign calling for UK family reunion scheme for Palestinians

During that time, two people who had applied for a family reunion visa “sadly passed away”, according to the letter.

Of the remaining 128 people who asked the Home Office for a visa to reunite with their families, 113 were rejected, 11 withdrawn and four were still outstanding.

A further 27 applications using different visa schemes – including the Ukraine Family Scheme – were rejected for the same reason or were still outstanding at the time.

In fact, the Home Office refused to grant a visa fingerprint waiver despite Israel’s war on Gaza until forced to under court order after a successful case brought by a Palestinian refugee.

The National: A view of signage for the Home Office (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The judgment from London’s Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber on March 10 said the Home Office's refusal to exempt the man’s wife and children from giving fingerprints was "disproportionate" given their "particular circumstances".

It also said the decision was in breach of the right to respect for private and family life stipulated in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is unclear how many more visas (if any) have been granted since. The Home Office has been approached for an update.

'Time is an important factor for people in Gaza'

“ANY of us could have been in the same situation,” said Hadil, a Palestinian refugee living with her partner and children in Dundee.

She told the Sunday National that she made an application in December for the Home Office to waive or defer fingerprint rules for her mother and four siblings.

After two “very stressful” and “very painful” months, the Home Office rejected the application.

In the letter, Hadil (below with her parents) said the Home Office also deemed her family were “not under immediate danger”.

The National:

“How can you judge? I gave a lot of evidence, a report of my family situation and - of course, it's very evident on TV - the genocide that’s going on,” she said.

“And you are saying we are not under immediate danger and we are not a target?”

She added: “It’s really frustrating and disappointing. Also, time is a very important factor for people in Gaza.”

Hadil has called for the Home Office to “consider how catastrophic the situation is” as well as the mental health of Palestinians in the UK.

“Why not consider our feelings as Palestinian communities who contribute to this country as well?

“We are not here as an additional burden, we contribute to this country. I'm a PhD student, my husband works here.

“Each of us, we contribute financially and socially. We are engaged in this country and we feel as though we are citizens."

Hadil started an urgent fundraiser to pay the exorbitant price for the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Hala, an Egyptian company, is charging Palestinians £5000 per person to flee – gouging its prices 14-fold since the war began.

READ MORE: ‘We Deserve Better campaign can take votes from Labour'

Five of her family members have successfully crossed the border and applied for a UK family visa from Cairo.

She asked: “But what if I had lost my family members before the Home Office gave a decision?

“It would be a really dark moment.”

Hadil’s fundraiser can be reached using this link if you’d like to donate. The rest of her family - her uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews – remain in Gaza.

Another blockade to fight

JULIANE Heider from the Islington Law Centre is a solicitor acting for clients applying for family reunions from Gaza.

“For clients applying for entry clearance with their loved ones from Gaza, the legal process and the need to challenge Home Office refusals to decide the applications without prior provision of biometrics has become another blockade they need to fight,” she said.

“It also means that the process is one of several stages, with different criteria to be met at each one, which builds in delays when what is needed is swift and positive decision-making to avoid the deaths of more applicants.”

The National: A child stands among rubble in a bombed home in Rafah

Campaign group Gaza Families Reunited, meanwhile, said that the Home Office’s fingerprint rules were “cruel” and that the “horrific” deaths demonstrate the “perils of the UK's continued failure to protect Palestinians in Gaza”.

They urged the Government to “create safe routes” for those seeking to reunite with family members in the UK.

A spokesperson added: “It is a stark warning of what could happen to many more people given that Israel intends to launch an invasion on Rafah, a former 'safe zone' where 1.5 million people are sheltering.

“We call on the Government to urgently push for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. In parallel, we call on the Government to create a Gaza Family Scheme that will reunite Palestinian families in the UK and offer them temporary sanctuary until it is safe to return.

“The Home Office's restrictive policies mean that many people - including those eligible under existing routes - remain trapped in Gaza with no hope of being evacuated, left to face an uncertain future in deadly circumstances.”

The Home Office has not responded to a request for comment.