To: Suella Braverman, Secretary of State, Home Office
From: Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice
I am writing to raise my concerns about the devastating humanitarian situation in Israel and Gaza and call for your urgent action.
The Scottish Government unequivocally condemns the abhorrent terrorist attacks of Hamas on Israel. There can be no defence of the killing of innocent civilians. Israel, like every other country in the world, has a right to protect itself from terror. The Scottish Government joins with the international community in calling for hostages taken by Hamas to be released immediately and unconditionally.
I share my deepest condolences with all people who have lost loved ones as a result of this devastating conflict. The images and personal stories of those affected are harrowing and it is time for the international community to take decisive action.
Despite the horrific conditions we are seeing in Gaza, we know that many Palestinians will choose to stay and they must be supported with humanitarian aid to do so. However, there will also be some who want to leave. You will be aware the Scottish Government has called upon the international community to commit to a refugee resettlement programme.
In the past, people across Scotland and the UK have opened up their hearts and homes to welcome those from Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and many other countries. We are ready to do so again.
On the back of the First Minister’s statement to the Scottish Parliament, this letter is to formally request that the UK Government use the already established UK Resettlement Scheme, which works with UNHCR, to allow a route to safety for the most vulnerable such as children and families, those with severe health needs, and those with links to residents in Scotland.
Applying the UK Resettlement Scheme will ensure that all needs are fully understood in advance, with arrangements, including accommodation, in place for people to begin their new lives immediately. It will also ensure that local government is provided with the long term resource that is required to support people effectively.
To ensure that we can work with the UNHCR to provide the medical treatment that people require as soon as they arrive, the Scottish Government also urges the UK Government to support the medical evacuation of injured civilians in Gaza, and if required Israeli civilians too, by activating the MEDEVAC programme. Scotland is ready to play its part, and Scottish hospitals will treat the injured men, women and children where they can.
The Scottish Refugee Council, a partner in the New Scots Refugee Integration strategy, have joined our call for the UK Government to activate its existing resettlement scheme, to assist those who need medical treatment, and to open a family reunion scheme to allow people already resident in the UK to bring their loved ones to safety. They also call for the UK Government to rapidly resolve any protection applications of people from Palestine, and Israel, who are already in the UK’s asylum system, as well as those who are stateless. We absolutely support this need which requires an urgent response.
It would be helpful if your officials could work with mine in order that we can schedule an urgent meeting to discuss the Scottish Government’s request. The need is immediate and growing daily, and a failure to respond with the same urgency shown during the Ukraine crisis fails people at their darkest time.
I look forward to receiving your response to the points I have raised.
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