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E-petition 648577 calls for the Government to create a visa scheme for “Palestinian individuals affected by war, to be allowed into the UK. Just like we did for Ukraine”. The petition closed on 18 April 2024 with over 100,000 signatures.

The Government’s response to the petition, issued in December 2023, said there were no plans to introduce a special visa scheme. It pointed to existing visa routes, in particular for immediate family members of British citizens and permanent residents.

For information on the 2023/24 Israel/Hamas conflict and the UK response, see Commons Library research briefing 2023/24 Israel-Hamas conflict: UK and international response.

Safe and legal routes to the UK

People who are at risk of serious harm, including from indiscriminate violence in armed conflict, can claim asylum in the United Kingdom. But they must be physically in the UK to lodge an asylum application. It is not possible to claim asylum from abroad and there is no asylum visa.

The resulting incentive for physical presence in the UK leads some people to make unauthorised journeys, such as by small boat, in order to lodge an asylum claim. This is relatively rare for Palestinians, who accounted for 0.14% of total unauthorised arrivals detected in 2023 (53 out of 36,704).

The Government often emphasises the availability of ‘safe and legal routes’ for people seeking protection. These broadly fall into three categories:

  • Refugee resettlement programmes
  • Refugee family reunion visas
  • Nationality-specific humanitarian visa schemes, available to some Afghans, Ukrainians, and people from Hong Kong


  • Palestinians are not eligible for refugee resettlement in the UK.
  • Refugee family reunion visas depend on there being a sponsor already granted asylum in the UK. Only partners and children under 18 can be sponsored, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
  • There is no bespoke visa scheme for Palestinians and no plans to open one.

This means that humanitarian visa routes are rarely available to Palestinians. The Government’s January 2024 report on safe and legal routes says they cannot provide for every eventuality, and “it is not feasible to consider protection claims from the very large numbers of people overseas who might ask to come here”.

The Ukraine model

The petition refers to the Ukrainian precedent. In response to the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in March 2022, and following criticism that mainstream visa routes were insufficient, the Government radically liberalised the visa regime for Ukrainian citizens and their family members.

Under the Ukraine Family Scheme, British citizens and permanent residents were enabled to sponsor a much wider range of family members for a visa. The Ukrainian family members they could sponsor included parents, siblings, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews, rather than only immediate family. Those sponsored could also bring their own immediate family. 

The scheme was open for applications between March 2022 and February 2024. Over 72,000 Family Scheme visas were issued.

Under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, visa sponsorship was opened up to Ukrainians with no family ties to the UK at all, provided they could find a sponsor willing provide suitable accommodation. The sponsor could be anyone with permission to live in the UK for six months or more.

The scheme remains open for applications but the criteria for becoming a sponsor were restricted to British citizens and permanent residents in February 2024. Almost 185,000 Homes for Ukraine visas have been issued so far.

All Ukraine scheme visas are free of charge. The visas last three years with the right to work and the right to claim mainstream benefits (neither of which are available to people who lodge an asylum claim, although both are permitted to those subsequently granted asylum). From early 2025, it will also be possible to extend the visas for a further 18 months.

The requirement to attend a visa application centre was also waived for many Ukrainian applicants until December 2023. The Home Office has successfully defended a legal challenge arguing that is discriminatory to allow this for Ukrainians and not for Afghans, citing different national security considerations and the ability to liaise with the Ukrainian authorities to confirm applicants’ identity. Similar considerations might apply for Palestinians and relations with the Hamas authorities in Gaza. 

More generally, the Government has sought to distinguish the Ukraine situation from the Palestinian situation when it comes to visa schemes. Lord Sharpe of Epsom, a Home Office minister, told the House of Lords on 24 April 2024 “the Ukraine family scheme was developed in close consultation with the Government of Ukraine, who have been very clear that they would like their citizens to return to Ukraine when it is safe to do so. Obviously, similar discussions with the Government in Gaza would not be possible, so the two situations are not analogous”.

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