British citizens fleeing Gaza face the ‘excruciating’ prospect of leaving their loved ones without UK passports stuck in the war-torn coastal enclave
- FCDO has begun putting names of British citizens on to the list of those allowed to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing to Egypt
British citizens trapped in Gaza are facing the ‘excruciating’ prospect of leaving without their family members after the Foreign Office left those without UK passports off the safe passage list, a group representing them has said.
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has begun putting names of British citizens on to the list of those allowed to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing to Egypt.
But some British citizens have said their dependants without British passports have not been included on the safe passage list.
The Rafah crossing is the only route out of Gaza for foreign nationals and the sole entry point for incoming aid.
The FCDO policy is in ‘stark contrast’ to the decisions made during the evacuation of Ukraine, where any family member of a British citizen would be provided with a visa, the group said.
People waiting at Rafah Border Gate (File Photo)
People waiting at Rafah Border Gate (File Photo)
The policy also differs from those set by other countries, with British families reporting that the US is allowing anybody with an American family to leave, the group claims.
Britons were among those documented on an approved list to pass through the key border post on Saturday but many reported being turned away in an apparent row between Israel and the Palestinians over evacuating injured patients.
One person facing the difficult prospect of leaving family members behind said those with Palestinian heritage were being treated like ‘second-class citizens’.
READ MORE: Top Hamas military commander claims October 7 attacks were never meant to target Israeli civilians as he breaks ranks to criticise terror group’s leaders ‘who changed the plan last-minute’ in extraordinary intervention
The person – who did not wish to be identified – said: ‘When we got the call that I and other family members had been added to the list we found out that my dad’s wife is not on there.
‘My dad has had to leave his wife and other family members behind so he can get my young brothers to safety.
‘We know of at least one other family in this situation. It is heartbreaking, nobody should have to make this kind of choice. The world has lost its humanity.
‘It is even more difficult to understand when we know of somebody who lives in the US who has managed to get 19 family members evacuated even though not even one of them has an American passport.
‘We know FCDO have made exemptions in the past for people from Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Sudan, it just feels like those of us with Palestinian heritage are always treated like second-class citizens.’
Louise Harkin, from the group Support Families in Gaza, said: ‘We have been in touch with organisations and lawyers who work to support people who have a right to come to the UK through different visa schemes, they have been quite clear that British Palestinians are being treated very differently to people fleeing the Ukraine conflict.
‘Gaza is currently the least safe place on the planet, almost 10,000 people are confirmed dead, almost half of whom are children, yet the Government now wants to separate British children from their mothers and families. We call upon the Government to allow British citizens to bring their families with them.’
The fighting between Israel and Hamas has continued into a fifth week, with the violence having been ignited by Hamas’s bloody raids on October 7 that killed 1,400 people and saw about 240 people taken hostage.
Destroyed buildings in Gaza City on November 5, 2023
A picture taken from Sderot along the border with the Gaza Strip early on November 5, 2023
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry has said more than 9,400 Palestinians have been killed in the enclave in nearly a month of war.
Even British nationals who are on the list have faced difficulties crossing the border in recent days due to disagreements between Palestinian and Israeli authorities.
Zaynab Wandawi, a British national born in Salford, Greater Manchester, was turned away again at the Rafah border crossing into Egypt on Saturday, her mother Lalah Ali-Faten said.
Ms Wandawi, an English language teacher, and a group of 12 family members – 10 of whom are British nationals – attempted to cross the border into Egypt on Wednesday, but were told their names were not on the list.
The 29-year-old travelled to Gaza at the beginning of October with her husband, who is British Palestinian, and his relatives for a family member’s wedding before the Israel-Hamas war erupted.
READ MORE: Humza Yousaf reveals his in-laws are ‘safe’ and back in Britain after they were ‘trapped’ in Gaza as Israel pounded Palestinian enclave
Her mother said she believes the Foreign Office is ‘not doing enough’, and added: ‘Just passing the list of names, I’m sorry, that doesn’t cut it as a government.’
The UK Government is ‘hopeful’ that the Rafah crossing will reopen on Sunday to allow more British nationals to leave Gaza, the Deputy Prime Minister said.
Oliver Dowden said Britain was working to ensure civilians could exit the besieged territory ‘as rapidly as possible’, with Foreign Office officials looking to ‘facilitate them in getting to the border and crossing’ over to Egypt.
The Government said the advice remains for all British nationals and dependants to leave Gaza.
In a statement, the FCDO said: ‘This continues to be a complex and challenging situation and we are using all diplomatic channels to press for the crossing to reopen in co-ordination with our international partners.
‘We remain in contact with British nationals in the region to provide them with the latest information.’
People who require a visa will need one in advance of travel to the UK, including dependants of British nationals, such as spouses, partners and children under 18, the FCDO said.
Meanwhile, Humza Yousaf has revealed that his in-laws are ‘safe’ and back in Britain after they were ‘trapped’ in Gaza as Israel pounded the Palestinian enclave.
Elizabeth El-Nakla and her husband Maged – the parents of Mr Yousaf’s wife Nadia – were trapped when Israel laid siege to the territory following the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel.
The couple – who are from Dundee – travelled to Gaza to visit family prior to the conflict erupting.
But the SNP leader confirmed they were among an almost 100-strong group permitted to enter Egypt through the Rafah border crossing in southern Gaza.
Humza Yousaf posted a family photo on X and said his in-laws are ‘safe’ and back in Britain after they were ‘trapped’ in Gaza
Elizabeth El-Nakla and her husband Maged – the parents of Mr Yousaf’s wife Nadia – were trapped when Israel laid siege to the territory following the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel
He posted on X today to confirm they are ‘safe and back home’.
The First Minister of Scotland posted on X: ‘I am pleased to say my in-laws are safe and back home.
‘We are, of course, elated, but my father-in-law said, “My heart is broken in two, and with my mum, son and grandchildren in Gaza.”
‘He then broke down telling me how hard it was saying goodbye to them.
‘All of the family is so pleased to have them back home in Scotland.
‘However, our thoughts remain with those who can’t leave and are trapped in a war zone. We will continue to raise our voices for peace and to stop the killing of innocent men, women and children in Gaza.
‘This has been a traumatic few weeks. I can’t begin to tell you the impact it has had on Nadia and our family, particularly my in-laws.
‘I’m sure they will tell their story in time. In the meantime, we ask that their privacy is respected.
‘Thank you for all of your good wishes.’
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