We are horrified by the desperate humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the targeting of innocent civilians and deaths in Israel, Gaza and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
As a refugee charity, Scottish Refugee Council will always stand in solidarity with people, no matter their nationality, who have no other choice but to leave their homes in search of safety.
According to the United Nations, 70 per cent of the total Gaza population of 1.4 million are refugees registered with the UN. The conflict is leading to further mass internal displacement.
We echo Amnesty International’s calls to the UK Government to use all diplomatic efforts to uphold civilian protection, ensure justice and accountability and resolve the root causes of the conflict. Charities such as Doctors without Borders have urgently called for sufficient humanitarian aid and fuel to be allowed into Gaza. We also urge the UK government to advocate for borders to open to allow access for civilians who need to reach safety. UK action should not contribute to the further forced displacement of Palestinians.
In terms of what we can do to help practically, first we urge the UK Government to facilitate medical evacuation for those who need it. Scotland played a significant role in the evacuation of people during the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts and we can do so again.
Second, the UK should plan now to scale up the existing UK Resettlement Scheme in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency, to allow an emergency pathway for people fleeing the region, especially for the most vulnerable, such as children and families, those with severe health needs, as well as those with existing links to residents in Scotland. The UK needs to activate its current resettlement system and expand it to deal with humanitarian crises like we are seeing in Gaza or in other troubled parts of the world, rather than create a discrete protection route in response to each crisis. We need systems that are proactive and pre-emptive rather than reactionary.
Third, we call on the UK government to rapidly resolve the protection applications of people from Israel and Palestine who are already in the UK’s asylum system as well as those who are stateless.
Lastly, current family reunion schemes should be made more accessible and faster to allow people affected directly by this humanitarian crisis to be with their family in Scotland and the UK.
This is an emergency. The UK should act.
These calls are part of a wider appeal for the UK government to invest in a fair and efficient asylum system that works for everyone. These systems should be centred around the person’s protection needs not their nationality, race, or how they arrived here. The tragic circumstances unfolding in Gaza demonstrate so clearly the importance and value of the life-saving Refugee Convention.
We continue to stand ready to help anyone who is forced to flee the region and we will support the Scottish Government in these efforts.
Read more about the support we offer people seeking protection in Scotland.
Find out more about the work we’ve done over the last year.