The Israel – Occupied Palestinian Territories and Gaza Crisis.

The following is reproduced from the UK Government’s website:

“The UK Government (The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, FCDO) has advised against all but essential travel to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and against all travel to the following locations:

Gaza

  • within 4km of the border with Lebanon. The Israeli military has announced that the area is a closed military zone and entry into the area is prohibited
  • the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajjar
  • within 500m of the border with Syria (the ‘Alpha Line’)
  • the area close to the border with Gaza that includes: southwest of Ashkelon, south of route 35 and west of route 40 as far as Tlalim, not including Be’er Sheva, west of Be’er Sheva and north of route 211.

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against FCDO advice. Consular support is also severely limited where FCDO advises against travel.

Register your presence:

The UK government has also advised British Nationals to register their presence if they are in the affected area.

If you are in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including Gaza, you are advised to register your presence with the FCDO. We can then share important updates, including information to support you to leave the country. Fill in the form for every member of your family or group who is a British national.

Conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories:

There was a large-scale terrorist attack by Hamas in southern Israel. Hamas continues to launch rockets into Israel. There are Israeli air strikes into Gaza.

The Israeli military announced on the morning of 13 October that the entire population of Gaza north of Wadi Gaza should relocate to southern Gaza within the next 24 hours.

We advise following this advice issued by the Israeli authorities. We recognise this a fast-moving situation that poses significant risks.

Events in Israel/OPTs are fast moving and the situation has potential to deteriorate quickly and without warning. This could disrupt air and road links out of the country. If your reason to remain in Israel is not essential, you should consider leaving if it is safe to do so. Given the disruptions to commercial flights, the British Government is assisting British nationals to return to the United Kingdom - see further information below.

If you are in an area affected by the fighting, follow the instructions of Israeli Home Front Command. To find these:

  • visit the Israeli Home Front Command website (available in Israel only)
  • call 104 if you are in Israel

The Israeli government has declared a state of emergency across the whole country. International borders (air and land) in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) could close at short notice. You should check our Travel Advice for any neighbouring country that you are planning to travel to or through.

Before travelling within Israel/OPTs you should check the local measures in place, that roads are open and, where appropriate, that scheduled train and bus services are operating before you travel.

Due to the security situation, some family members of staff at the British embassy in Tel Aviv and British Consulate in Jerusalem have been temporarily withdrawn. The Embassy and Consulate continue with essential work including services to British nationals.

Monitor this travel advice and other media as the situation is changing fast. Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

Travel within or out of Israel is at your own risk.  You are encouraged to follow the advice of local authorities, for example on which routes are open or when to take shelter, and monitor this Travel Advice, which is regularly updated. Register your presence to receive important updates, including information on support to leave the country.

Travelling to Egypt from Gaza:

If you are a British national in Gaza who wants to enter Egypt, check the status of the Rafah crossing into Egypt before you travel. Movement to the Rafah crossing and beyond is at your own risk. You should only travel if you judge it is safe to do so. Check the Egypt travel advice.

Help and support in Israel and the OPTs:

  • Contact your travel provider and insurer
  • Contact your travel provider and your insurer. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Help from FCDO in Israel and the OPTs:

If you need consular assistance call:

+44 176 766 7600 (UK number)

+972 (0)3 725 1222

+972 (2) 5414100

Help from other organisations: 

Keep up to date with local travel advice through local news outlets and international outlets like the Access Coordination Unit.

Concern for friends and family:

If you are in the UK and concerned about a friend or family member who is in Israel or the OPTs call FCDO on 0176 766 7600.”

The following is reproduced, with permission from the factsheet produced by Migrants Organised:

“Migration Routes to the UK for UK residents with Family Members at Risk due to the Israel/Gaza conflict:

Up to date as of 13 October 2023.

At the present time there are unfortunately very limited visa options for people affected by the conflict in Israel and Gaza to join their family in the UK. It would be open to the UK government to rename the Ukraine Family Scheme visa as the ‘Conflict Zone Family Visa’. One main problem with travel from Gaza is that it is dependent on the availability of a travel corridor/international flights being available. Without a practical travel route, a UK visa will not make a difference.

Visit visas: 

Visit visas can still be applied for by people normally resident in Israel or Gaza, but the UK will check whether the person is a ‘genuine’ visitor (i.e. do they believe the person will leave the UK again before their visit visa expires). This can be difficult to show if there is active conflict in your home area. Information is online here:

https://www.gov.uk/standard-visitor and here for visit visas for medical reasons

https://www.gov.uk/standard-visitor/visit-for-medical-reasons 

Work visas:

The most common work visa route to the UK is the ‘Skilled Worker’ route. There is a specific type of this visa for Health and Social Care Workers (which is cheaper to apply for and you usually get a decision more quickly). You need to satisfy an English language requirement and have a job offer from a sponsor registered with the Home Office. Both types of Skilled Worker visas are on a five-year route to settlement and can sponsor partners and dependent children. There is also a short-term six month ‘seasonal worker’ visa option, which does not have the same English language requirement, but you still need a sponsor. This route and cannot sponsor family members. There are other work and business visas too. 

All work visa routes involve payment of significant application fees and most also require payment of the ‘Immigration Health Surcharge’ which is very expensive also. Sometimes an employer will agree to assist with these fees. Skilled worker visa information: https://www.gov.uk/skilled-worker-visa Health and social care visa information: https://www.gov.uk/health-care-worker-visa Seasonal worker visa information: https://www.gov.uk/seasonal-worker-visa 

Study visas: 

Study visas are short term visas to allow people with an offer to study in the UK to take up their place. University student visas usually require that the applicant meets an English language requirement and has an offer to study from a university that agrees to sponsor the visa. Study visas involve an application fee and the expensive ‘Immigration Health Surcharge’ fees. Depending on the course, a partner and children may be able to be included in a student visa application. Student visa information: https://www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration/student-visas

Family visas:

The Immigration Rules have fairly complicated rules to allow British nationals or people who have settlement in the UK to bring family to the UK, if the family member is a:

  • Fiancé, spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner (for unmarried partners this usually requires two years cohabitation or evidence of a similar level of commitment) 
  • Child under the age of 18 (or if the child is the British/settled person then their parent)
  • Adult dependent relative but only to organise long-term care for someone with care needs (so more than just financial dependency is needed). 

Other family applications can be made outside the rules on human rights grounds, but they are difficult to obtain. Even family applications for relationships covered by the rules have complex requirements about showing financial self-sufficiency or meeting other tests. Family applications have high fees and the Immigration Health Surcharge, but it is possible to obtain a full or partial fee waiver if it is not possible to pay these fees.

For family immigration cases a process called ‘Exceptional Case Funding’ is in place, which can fund legal advice in cases where there would otherwise be a breach of human rights. If a person is financially eligible for legal aid (even a person outside the UK, seeking to join family), it is possible to apply for legal aid (free legal assistance). It is necessary to show that the person cannot be expected to make the application without legal assistance. If legal aid is agreed then a lawyer with an immigration and asylum legal aid contract can invoice the Legal Aid Agency for the work, which will be free for the applicant. 

Family Reunion visas:

If an adult is already living in the UK with refugee or humanitarian protection status then they can apply to bring their partner, children and exceptionally other family members to join them. This applies to family that the person had before they fled their country, not new family members (i.e. a new partner or children) from the time since they came to the UK as a refugee. This application process is free, but there are quite strict rules about who can apply within the rules. It is possible to apply outside the rules, but this kind of case would usually need careful legal casework to stand a chance of succeeding. As with family visas (above) it is possible to apply for legal aid to get help with refugee family reunion. The British Red Cross can also sometimes offer advice. Information about the British Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org.uk/get-help/familyreunion 

Refugee resettlement:

It is not possible to apply for resettlement to the UK. The UNHCR selects some people who it recommends for resettlement to the UK. Those will be people who have crossed their national border and so are already displaced in a third country. Palestinian refugees are not usually eligible for resettlement to the UK at all, because they are usually not processed by the UNHCR, since the UNRWA has jurisdiction for supporting Palestinian refugees and the UNRWA is not part of a similar resettlement process to the UK.

There is no refugee visa to the UK. The only way to claim asylum in the UK is to be physically present here, but there is no visa route to allow safe travel to the UK in order to claim asylum. There is a safe visa route to the UK for Ukrainians and there was a recent legal challenge about whether it was discriminatory to provide such a more accessible visa process for Ukrainians, compared with people fleeing Afghanistan. This legal challenge was unsuccessful, although there has been a case where an Afghan national who was resident in Ukraine has been granted leave in line with the Ukraine Scheme. It does appear that residence in Ukraine would still be necessary to apply for a Ukraine Scheme visa. 

Biometrics:

 Almost all visa applications include a requirement to register biometrics (photograph and fingerprints) at a Visa Application Centre (VAC). It is unclear whether VACs in Israel and Gaza are operating at present. There is usually a VAC in Tel Aviv in Israel and in Gaza City in Gaza, but the UK website as of 13 October 2023 states that visa applicants from Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories should ‘apply at your nearest accessible’ VAC, which indicates that there may be flexibility about which VAC is used (https://www.gov.uk/find-avisa-application-centre). If there is no way to safely reach a VAC, it is possible to ask for a positive indication on a visa application before travelling to a VAC or for permission to be given to allow biometrics to be provided on arrival. However, it is necessary to show that it will be possible to travel to the UK if the visa is granted. The Home Office policy on this is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/biometric

Re-produced with permission from Migrants Organise 

https://www.migrantsorganise.org/

Tom Togher

October 18, 2023.