UK citizens criticise FCDO over support

Geneva Abdul




News | Israel-Hamas Qar

Relatives of British citizens recently evacuated from Gaza and those waiting to return to the UK have criticised the government’s repatriation guidance. Ahmad Abou-Foul’s family crossed from Gaza into Egypt on 3 November. He said they had been shocked on arrival in Cairo when UK immigration officers advised individuals with British passports to return to the UK with their children, and once there, to start a reunification process for their Palestinian spouses. “They were asking us to split a four-month-old from his mother – and a one-year-old and two-yearold,” said Abou-Foul, an NHS surgeon from Birmingham, whose 16 relatives – including young children – returned to the UK on Saturday. After enduring weeks of Israeli bombardment that has killed more than 12,000 people, the family asked officials why they were being treated differently from people in other recent evacuations, such as those from Sudan, Ukraine and Afghanistan. Abou-Foul said the family were told that each situation was different. Abou-Foul paid £16,000 in visa fees for three adults and two children. The family was not given any guidance or informed of any fee waivers, he said, and were asked to arrange their return at their own cost. "Why weren't we supported by the FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office]?” asked Abou-Foul. rst opened on 1 November to allow specific groups of foreign nationals and the seriously wounded to leave. By early November, more than half of the British nationals seeking to escape Gaza for Egypt had managed to do so. The Guardian understands that transportation to Cairo and two nights’ of accommodation is being provided to British nationals and their dependants. While flights are not being facilitated, loans are being offered in a temporary exchange for passports. Tessa Gregory at the law firm Leigh Day said: “Our client and her British family who were living in Gaza have fled a war zone where they have survived desperate conditions and witnessed unspeakable violence. “In these circumstances the [UK] should be doing everything within its power to get the family back as quickly as possible so they can start to rebuild their lives.” A government spokesperson said: “The safety of British nationals remains a top priority. We are working at pace to support British families who have crossed the border into Egypt, making sure any dependants who need a visa can apply for one and that appropriate checks are carried out in a timely manner.”