Britons split on whether we should take in Palestinian refugees fleeing the Gaza conflict

Beth MannResearch Executive
October 27, 2023, 3:16 PM GMT+0

The public tends to think the UK has no moral obligation to offer asylum to Palestinian refugees

Ahead of their planned invasion of Gaza, Israel has told Palestinians to leave the northern areas of the Gaza Strip. Many thousands have done so or are attempting to do so, but escape is dangerous, and neighbouring countries are reluctant to take in refugees.

Charities internationally and in the UK are fighting for a plan to host Gaza refugees, with Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf saying that the nation is willing to offer sanctuary, but what do Britons want? New YouGov research explores what responsibility Britons think the UK has to help those fleeing.

There is no clear side in the conflict in which sympathies lie, with 19% saying their sympathies lie more with the Israelis, 17% the Palestinians and 32% saying both sides equally, and this divide continues when it comes to whether the government is currently doing enough to help refugees fleeing the conflict. One in eight (13%) say the government is doing too much, 25% say not enough, a further 24% about the right amount and the largest number, 38%, saying they don’t know.

Those following the stories closely are more likely to say the government isn’t doing enough (35%), but 28% say they’re doing about the right amount.

In a similar vein, support for the UK introducing a resettlement scheme for Palestinian refugees fleeing the conflict is completely split, with 39% in support, 38% in opposition. Support is heavily dependent on which side sympathies lie, with 75% of those sympathizing more with the Palestinian side supporting a scheme, compared to just 15% of those more on the Israeli side. Amongst those sympathising with both sides equally, more support than oppose such a scheme, by 49% to 35%.

The issue is also heavily divisive down party lines, with those intending to vote Labour much more likely to support such a scheme than their Conservative peers, by 57% to 24%.

When we asked supporters of a resettlement scheme how many Palestinians they think the UK should offer to take, the most popular figure was a few thousand (27%). A further 17% thought a few tens of thousands was the right level.

Whilst support for a resettlement scheme is split, Britons are more clear that the UK does not have a moral obligation to offer asylum to Palestinians, by 45% to 31%. A majority of Palestinian sympathizers think we do (68%), but one in five say we don’t (20%). Opinion is much more split amongst those who say they sympathise with both sides equally, of whom 44% say we don’t have a moral obligation and 38% we do.

Again, we see those intending to vote Labour more inclined than their Conservative counterparts to say the UK does have a moral obligation, by 48% to 15%.

How does this compare to the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

Compared to when we asked the same questions to Britons last year about Ukraine refugees fleeing the Russian invasion, Britons are much more reluctant to offer refuge to Palestinians than Ukrainians. In a poll three weeks after the invasion, 65% of Britons said that the UK had a moral obligation to offer asylum to Ukrainians, compared to 31% who say the same for Palestinians now.

Similarly, we found higher levels of support for a Ukrainian resettlement scheme in the UK (76% vs 39% for Palestinians), and support for allowing a higher number of refugees to be admitted.

Explore more data & articles