We have all looked on in horror at the escalating humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding in the middle east. Our condolences go to all those who have lost loved ones on both sides of this conflict.
We unequivocally condemn the abhorrent terrorist attacks that have been committed by Hamas. Israel, like every other country in the world, has a right to protect itself from terror. However, that must be done within international law. As the number of civilians displaced in Gaza increases and their supplies are restricted, innocent people are being affected and conditions continue to deteriorate.
Last week, I announced that we will make a £500,000 contribution to the United Nations’ flash appeal in response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Those funds will support the immediate food, health, shelter and protection needs of people who are seeking safety. We continue to call for an immediate ceasefire and for the creation of a safe humanitarian corridor that allows such much-needed supplies in and innocent people to leave.
I am sure that the minister will agree that the First Minister has led politicians across the UK in the thoughtful way that he shows care and compassion for the victims of the horrendous attacks by Hamas, while reminding Israel and others of the need to show the innocent civilians in Gaza the same compassion as they demand elsewhere. Given the desperate need to protect those who are affected during and after the on-going onslaught of Gaza, will the Scottish Government reiterate its call for a worldwide refugee programme and refugee resettlement programme?
A ceasefire by all sides is needed in order to allow the creation of a secure and sustained humanitarian corridor to ensure protection of innocent civilians and delivery of essential supplies including food, fuel, water and medical provisions. Currently, 1.4 million people are displaced within the Gaza strip.
We know that many Palestinians will wish to stay in their homeland; they must be supported to do so with urgent humanitarian aid. However, for people who choose to leave, the Scottish Government is also calling on the international community to commit to a worldwide refugee programme for the people of Gaza. The First Minister has called on the UK Government to take urgent steps to use the existing UK resettlement scheme and to ensure that it is aligned with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees—the United Nations’ refugee agency—to provide those who want to leave with all the support that they require. Scotland stands ready to work with the UK Government to create and implement a resettlement route for the people of Gaza.
I welcome the Scottish Government’s response to the crisis. Given that aid is currently not getting into Gaza, how does the minister expect the money that has already been committed to be used? What work is being done to look at further support that could be given, in light of the siege and the worsening conditions?
Katy Clark echoes concerns that we all feel. To answer her question directly, I note that the flash appeal that we contributed to is a UN appeal. United
Nations Relief and Works Agency staff remain on the ground in Gaza; the money will be channelled through their work. They are currently protecting 600,000 internally displaced people in 150 UNRWA facilities, and they tell us today that they are running out of fuel and might therefore have to leave the area. We do not want that. We want the aid money to get to UN people on the ground, and support to be given to the people who need it most.