Rishi Sunak's extra aid for Palestinians 'pitiful', say MPs who demand help for refugees

The $12 million falls short of sum needed, says UK Parliament's international development committee

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv. He has met several regional leaders during a trip to the Middle East. AP
Powered by automated translation

Rishi Sunak’s announcement of £10 million ($12.1 million) extra in humanitarian aid for Palestinians falls short of what’s needed, MPs have said.

The UK Prime Minister was in Saudi Arabia discussing the Israel-Gaza war with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he announced the assistance on Thursday.

But the cross-party international development committee criticised the amount of aid offered and called for a wider approach that included support for countries that may host refugees.

“The additional £10 million in humanitarian aid the UK is offering for civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is pitiful. It falls far short of such support the UK provided a few years ago,” the committee’s chairwoman, Sarah Champion, said.

The Labour MP said “incomprehensible horror unfolding in Israel and Gaza highlights the absolute necessity that the UK government rethink its position” on support for countries who host refugees from war zones.

The committee has previously recommended a global strategy to support countries hosting long-term refugees and she said the crisis in the Middle East emphasised the need for this.

But the government does not fully accept this, as it argued existing frameworks for responsibility-sharing, including the UN's Global Refugee Compact, offer the best strategy.

Ms Champion said even if the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza were to reopen, “the idea that Egypt can take, accommodate and provide for potentially in excess of one million desperate, displaced people as they stream into the Sinai desert is simply not credible”.

“Without a global consensus on how to provide consistent and reliable support to countries hosting displaced people, those people will have no safe refuge," she said.

"The situation is simply untenable, and the world must dig deep to respond with the humanity this desperate situation deserves.”

The Rafah crossing is reported to be reopening on Friday for aid trucks to cross into Gaza, but not for people seeking to flee the Israeli bombardment of the enclave.

A UK government official said the extra aid “is giving essential, lifesaving assistance, including food, water, health support and shelter, to some of the world's most vulnerable people”.

Britain is “a long-standing and significant donor of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people” and last year contributing £13 million to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), said the official.

Last year, the UNRWA “reached 1.1 million people in Gaza and 58 thousand people in West Bank with emergency food”.

After his talks with Prince Mohammed, Mr Sunak spoke with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim in Riyadh on Friday. Mr Sunak is also due to travel to Egypt for talks.

The UK Prime Minister earlier met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv.

Mr Sunak's two-day Middle East trip is due to end on Friday.

Updated: October 20, 2023, 10:41 AM