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06 March 2024

Minister’s response to written question about obstacles to UK visa applications made by Gazans

3 mins

We commented on Monday on the difficulties faced by British citizens and Palestinians living in the UK to bring their family members to the UK from Gaza (see here).

Those difficulties include the lack of an open and safe route for those fleeing the conflict in Gaza to come to the UK meaning that applicants have to try to meet the strict requirements of the Immigration Rules to join family here and practical obstacles in progressing applications they have made for a visa to come to the UK.  

One of the most difficult obstacles is the fact that in order for applications to even be considered, applicants are obliged to attend a Visa Application Centre to enrol their biometrics. Because of the recognised risk to the safety of civilians in Gaza, the Visa Application Centre in Gaza is closed. This means that Gazans who are in Gaza are unable to attend biometric appointments within Gaza. They also cannot leave Gaza to attend biometric appointments. The Home Office policy is to require all Gazans to attend a biometric appointment before deciding an application and their policy seems to be that there are no exceptional circumstances for applicants from Gaza to warrant a different approach. Gazans who have left and are in Egypt have faced problems making appointments at the visa centers to give their biometrics.  

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP put a written question to the SSHD on 28 February 2024 asking what provision his Department has made for collecting biometric data from relatives of British nationals fleeing Gaza in the absence of functioning visa application centres in Gaza.

A written response was given by Tom Pursglove on 4 March 2024. Mr Pursglove holds the position of Minister of State at the Home Office. It could be expected then that in answering a written question the Minister would have made himself aware of the situation in Gaza and the region. Sadly it seems he did not.

His answer was :

The Visa Application Centre in Gaza has been closed since 7 October 2023 due to the conflict in the region and to ensure the safety of staff and customers. UKVI will continue to monitor the situation and work closely with the commercial partner, TLS, to re-open the center when it becomes safe to do so.

Those who wish to make a UK visa application will need to enrol their biometrics at an alternative Visa Application Centre in OPT (Ramallah or Jerusalem) or a nearby country. Customers can visit for an up to date list of Visa Application Centres in the region.

Mr Pursglove could perhaps answer the following question : how does he anticipate a resident of Gaza being able to travel to Ramallah and/or Jerusalem?

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