Foreign Office failures sent British doctor back to Gaza 'death trap', family claim

Thousands have signed a petition to bring Dr Ahmed Sabra back to the UK

British authorities have been criticised for not helping UK cardiologist Dr Ahmed Sabra after he was sent back to Gaza from Egypt. Photo:
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A British doctor who was sent back to Gaza from the Egyptian border has been failed by the Foreign Office and returns to a “death trap”, his daughter and MP say.

Dr Ahmed Sabra, who works in Swansea, had been visiting Gaza with his wife and three children when the conflict broke out.

But unlike his family, the cardiologist's name was not put on the list to cross the border into Egypt at Rafah.

Despite being allowed on a bus to the border, he was then kept at the checkpoint for days, waiting for the British authorities to help him. After negotiations failed he was returned to Gaza on Wednesday.

His daughter, Haya Sabra, told of her heartache at the family being separated. She is among thousands who have signed an online petition to bring her father home.

“The horror [is] knowing my dad has been sent back to a death trap,” she said.

“My dad spent his life doing everything for me and my siblings. Being forced to leave him at the Egyptian Rafah border, I will always regret that moment.

“The moment my family split up is when I felt my heartache. I really miss him and am scared for him. I want him to come back safe.

“To the British government: you need to take responsibility. Your first duty is to protect all British citizens. You cannot fail again. This is a life-or-death situation, not a game.

“We demand that Dr Ahmed Sabra comes back safe. This is the bare minimum.”

Politician Geraint Davies, the independent MP for Swansea West, has been fighting to get Dr Sabra and his family out of Gaza for more than two weeks.

He told The National Dr Sabra is being failed by the Foreign Office and is calling on the British authorities to rise to the challenge and help him and others trapped in Gaza.

“I have contacted the Prime Minister's office to step in,” he said.

“If he was a US citizen he would be home. It is extraordinary that people are being moved from war-torn Gaza to Egypt and the British embassy has not got the power to help them and are dancing to the tune of others.

“The British authorities need to step in and demand that all British nationals are released to our custody and allowed to come home.

“More than 10,000 people a day can cross the Rafah crossing and it is unacceptable that more British people have not been able to cross. It is completely unnecessary for families to be spilt up at the border, for all their names not to be on the list.

“The government should be demanding their return without delay and not allow them to be treated in this appalling way.

“This family have moved from house to house and [were] being bombed. They have all suffered enough trauma without being separated like this.”

Mr Davies said Dr Sabra was sent back with nowhere to go and only 5 per cent phone battery charge, and told to fend for himself.

“It is absolutely disgraceful an NHS consultant who saves lives on a daily basis is being treated like this,” he said.

"The US were prepared to ensure their citizens not on the transfer lists, but part of a family, would return home together and were. Their consular officials were an ongoing presence. UK citizens deserve the same service.

“This is a desperate situation for Dr Sabra and other British nationals and I plead with the government to rise to the challenge and escalate their efforts to help everyone.”

The Foreign Office has not responded to The National's request for a comment on Dr Sabra's case.

However, it said it is working around the clock to ensure all British nationals in Gaza who want to leave are able to.

“This involves submitting all details of British nationals and eligible dependents to the Israeli and Egyptian authorities. The authorities then review all cases and give permissions to cross,” it said.

“We remain in regular contact with British nationals in Gaza to provide them with the latest information, and UK teams are forward-deployed to the border to receive anyone leaving.”

A petition set up by Dr Sabra's colleagues to urge the Foreign Office to help him has more than 3,200 signatories.

“Our dear friend and esteemed colleague, Dr Ahmed Sabra, is currently trapped in Gaza amidst escalating conflict. He had travelled there with his family to visit relatives when the war with Israel began, and now they have been waiting for a month to leave this dangerous situation,” his colleague Sara Gretton wrote.

“Dr Sabra has described his predicament as being sent to a 'death sentence', accusing the UK government of failing to provide necessary assistance.

“This is not just about one man's life but also about upholding our commitment towards our citizens who dedicate their lives serving others in the healthcare sector.

“Dr Sabra is not just any citizen; he is a respected member of our community, known for his modesty, kindness, and gentle demeanour.

“His desperation resonates with us all as he seeks help for evacuation out of Gaza. We call upon the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office and British embassy to expedite their efforts in prioritising Dr Sabra's evacuation along with his family out of Gaza immediately.

“It's time we stand up for those who have always stood by us during tough times. Please sign this petition urging immediate action on behalf of Dr Ahmed Sabra – because every second counts!”

Updated: November 10, 2023, 9:01 AM