Over the last month, we have witnessed devastating suffering in the Gaza Strip, Israel and the West Bank. This includes the killings of over one thousand and the abduction of several hundred Israeli civilians by Hamas on the 7th October 2023 and the ongoing indiscriminate bombings of hospitals, shelters, schools and homes as well as the ground invasion of Gaza by the Israeli military, resulting in killing over seven thousand Palestinian civilians so far. In this context, access to water, food, medicine, electricity and internet to the people of Gaza has been blocked by the Israeli army.
City of Sanctuary Sheffield stands in unwavering solidarity with all displaced individuals and with those caught up in this conflict. We grieve for all of the lives already lost and worry for the immediate future of the region.
As this crisis now escalates, we stand in solidarity with the 2.2 million people of Gaza, 70% of whom are already refugees. Here we are witnessing the ongoing destruction and displacement of human lives on a grand scale. The current situation is so dire that a United Nations humanitarian expert warned that Israel may be on the verge of a “mass ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians in Gaza.
We recognise that this latest conflict must be seen within an ongoing wider context. For decades, the Israeli government has subjected the Palestinian people to systematic human rights abuses, an illegal occupation, and deadly military force characterised by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as an ‘apartheid’. The present escalation in the conflict will likely see the increase in displaced people and yet another generation of Palestinian children growing up in refugee camps, living in persistent poverty and without the ability to return to their family homes. Worse still, it also likely sets the stage for further conflict and violence in the region.
This occurs at a time of global retrenchment where the human right to sanctuary is progressively being eroded. Principles of international solidarity, human rights, and honouring the right to sanctuary have been the object of political attacks in many countries all over the world. In the UK, the hostile environment has sought to ‘disincentivize’ people seeking refuge to come to the country, even those with family in the UK. Exceptions were made in the cases of Ukraine and Afghanistan. The plight of the Palestinian people remains an enduring and unresolved tragedy which we believe warrants a similar path to sanctuary as in the cases of Ukraine and Afghanistan.
Safety, security, access to basic resources (such as water, food, medicine and electricity) and sanctuary are human rights enshrined in international law for the benefit of all. From our past’s shadows to the present challenges, City of Sanctuary Sheffield stands unequivocally with the displaced and oppressed, wherever they may be, and with the organisations trying to meet urgent humanitarian needs in the most challenging places. Wherever we are and whatever agency we have, the time for meaningful action, rooted in compassion and justice to build a lasting peace, is now. Let us strive for a world where human rights are respected and where sanctuary, self-determination, and the right to live in peace are treated not as privileges but as the most fundamental laws.
- We stand united with the global humanitarian community in urging an immediate ceasefire to prioritise the delivery of humanitarian aid and the preservation of human life above all else.
- We back Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders’ call that the UK government and all UK political parties must demand that the appalling Gaza “evacuation order” be rescinded by Israel immediately and for all indiscriminate violence and collective punishment to stop.
- We call for the immediate release of all hostages and those in administrative detention caught up in this conflict.
- We urge the UK Government to immediately open safe routes for people fleeing the Gaza region, as was done for those fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan, including a family reunion scheme for Palestinians and Refugee Visas open to all those affected by the conflict.
- We call on the UK Government to act decisively to avoid forced displacement and ensure that the Palestinians’ right to remain in Gaza is affirmed in all multilateral diplomatic efforts.
- We call on the international community to reaffirm the United Nations General Assembly resolution 194 which mandates that all refugees “wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date”.
- We call for the end of the illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories, to address the root causes of the current conflict, pave the way for enduring peace and address the persistent Palestinian refugee crisis.
- We call for peace, tolerance and solidarity between all peoples, and we unreservedly denounce antisemitism and islamophobia in all its forms.
- Finally, we call on all Members of Parliament and Local Councillors representing Sheffield and its surrounding areas to amplify our calls and use their influence in Parliament and within their own political parties to promote peace, human dignity, and respect for international law accordingly.