WE need visas to be issued to Palestinians trapped in Gaza so they can find safety.

That’s the bottom line.

The best chance just now for a scheme for refugees from Gaza, for the UK, is the petition to allow for family reunion visas with Palestinians in the UK. In the first six months of the conflict the UK Government allowed Gazans with direct family ties – children or spouses – in the UK and with six months remaining on a UK visa to return to the UK.

The number of people who fulfil the criteria is vanishingly small.

Now the Government refuses all requests in actions deemed on Tuesday by a judge, ruling against the UK Government, as “irrational and unreasonable and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights”.

My inbox is overflowing with requests to help get people out of a situation where they face death by starvation, disease or bombing. Mostly its requests for me to fund raise around $500,000 to help get people I have previously employed on academic projects, or have taught, get to Egypt.

READ MORE: The National urges readers to sign urgent petition calling for Gaza family scheme

The monopoly Egyptian “travel service” is now charging exorbitant fees for people to leave Gaza and enter Egypt.

If you have social connections in countries allowed to use a GoFundMe platform who will raise the $10,000 minimum per person, then you might be in with a chance of getting your name on a list for exit. It’s impossible.

Otherwise, Palestinians in Gaza may die slowly under rubble, of sepsis or bleeding out, or by starving to death, or from injuries untreated. Or they may die instantly.

What is perfectly clear to any observer, even of the highly propagandised mainstream media, is that the Palestinians in Gaza are in grave danger and need to be able, should they wish, to be refugees and to cross the borders into a place of safety. But they can’t, for two clear reasons.

1. There is no way out.

THE sea is blockaded, Israeli and other war ships block the entire coastline. There is a separation wall (illegal under international law) surround the entire perimeter of the Gaza Strip. It is armed. There is no way through. There is no airport in Gaza. It was closed when the siege began, 17 years ago. The famed tunnels are flooded or blocked off.

There are no safe zones internally. In Gaza, nowhere is safe.


PALESTINIANS as refugees are supported in countries across the Middle East, following the establish, at the State of Israel’s initial request, after the Second World War, of a special agency, established in 1949, UNRWA.

This is where it gets a bit complicated. UNRWA is separate from UNHCR – the UN’s main body dealing with the Refugee Convention.

Palestinian refugees have the right to remain in their Occupied Territories, the right to inherit refugee status, because they were illegally displaced in 1948. In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate, most recently extending it until June 30, 2023.

However, should UNRWA cease in its ability to provide assistance to Palestinian refugees in its countries of unique operation, then UNHCR must step in under Refugee Convention: Article 1d.

But, in short, if UNHCR steps in then all UNRWA registered refugees automatically become the responsibility of UNHCR and will not be required to apply for asylum, and must be granted all the rights signatory states – like the UK – extend to registered refugees.

This is a question both for highly exercised international refugee lawyers and also a political question, for the UN and for signatory states.

It’s also at the heart of Israel’s strategy – destroy UNRWA, destroy the right of return for Palestinian refugees; destroy the prospects of the two-state solution. Destroy conditions of life.

Essentially, UNRWA is now no longer able to provide support to Palestinians in Gaza. The statements or their director Philippe Lazzarini say as much. As does the magisterial evidence offered by the UN special rapporteur Francesca Albanese to the United Human Rights Committee’s “Anatomy of Genocide”. But the UN are clear that their priority is a ceasefire.

Former head of policy development and evaluation at UNHCR, Jeff Crisp, posted the response he received from UNHCR to the vexed question of an international evacuation. UNHCR’s logical priority is a ceasefire and sustainable peace brokerage. It sees Israel as a state bound by international law and the ICJ and therefore, rightly, by UN treaty and convention logics, a mass evacuation should not be needed. People should be safe in the context of this conflict. The problem is, they aren’t.

The international humanitarian rules have not just been shredded but they have been mocked, publicly, by our own Foreign Secretary, by the US and by Germany in what Francesca Albanese has called “humanitarian camouflage”– a quest for impunity and for a legal argument to be found by redefining terms that will allow what we are seeing to be permitted under international law.

What now?

A VISA scheme – maybe a humanitarian family reunion visa scheme would be a start.

So far, the political pressure is not enough and ministers keep refusing. The Home Office is actively refusing all visa requests.

The Palestinian people in Gaza have endured six months of daily conflict, 17 years of an illegal siege under international law, 56 years of occupation and 76 years of an ongoing disaster.

Israel has categorically refused to cease its fire or its siege or its blocking of humanitarian aid.

On October 9, 2023, defence minister Yoav Gallant advised that: “Gaza won’t return to what it was before. We will eliminate everything. If it doesn’t take one day, it will take a week. It will take weeks or even months, we will reach all places.”

Palestinians in Gaza are a group who are plausibly at risk of genocide, according to the world’s highest court, the ICJ.

We need what are normally called “humanitarian visas” which are separate from those issued to people exercising their right to seek asylum. Unlike asylum applications, humanitarian visas can be issued prior to arrival.

We also need visas to be offered by many states

THIS is what is needed for Palestinians in Gaza. Please sign the petition. It’s the least we can do.

Alison Phipps is UNESCO chair for refugee integration through languages and arts at the University of Glasgow