Yesterday I was drawn in the ballot to ask the Foreign Secretary a question. Unfortunately, due to my position in the ballot, the constraints on parliamentary time and the somewhat bombastic nature of Boris Johnson, I was unable to ask a question to Mr Johnson and his team.
I wanted to ask about freedom of movement for civilians entering and leaving Gaza. This is a key issue because of the effect on the healthcare and education of civilians. One of the Foreign Office Ministers, Tobias Ellwood, responded to my question through a written answer. He said that
‘We continue to call on the Governments of Israel and Egypt to show maximum flexibility in opening the crossings into Gaza. Officials from our Embassy in Tel Aviv most recently raised the issue of movement and access with the Israeli authorities on 13 March’
The convention is that a questioner has a follow up or supplementary question. I had planned to ask about the challenges facing those in need of healthcare and young people who have been denied an opportunity to leave Gaza to study.
In January an international delegation of Catholic Bishops made their annual visit to Gaza, were they met patients with serious health conditions who require treatment in Jerusalem, but are forced to go through a lengthy process of applying for exit permits and even then are sometimes prevented from leaving. Last year the World Health Organisation reported that more than half of patients who applied to exit Gaza for treatment were rejected or delayed. I would like to see, and will encourage colleagues to work toward, the government making representations to the Egyptian and Israeli governments to ensure that every individual who needs treatment outside Gaza is free to leave.
The same delegation met children who had been denied exit permits to take up university places. This is particularly harmful considering how limited opportunities are inside Gaza – with youth unemployment standing at over 50%. Any future solution to the issue facing the region will be led by young people and must bear their interests in mind. Without a doubt, ensuring that young people in Gaza have the opportunity to study outside Gaza if offered a university place should be a priority for the government.