Confusion over move for Yemeni Jews to UK

A small number of Yemeni Jews may "imminently" move to Britain, although there is confusion over the government's role in their possible resettlement here.

There have been plans for more than a year to help Jews from Yemen escape persecution by moving to join family members already living in Stamford Hill's strictly Orthodox community.

The Independent newspaper claimed this week that the Foreign Office is on the verge of agreeing a secret deal with Yemeni authorities.

It is thought around 20 or 30 Jewish families living in the northern town of Raida already have relatives in Britain and could be brought out of Yemen using three-month visitor visas.

This would avoid embarrassing the Yemeni government by allowing it to evade claims it can no longer protect its Jewish community. Once here the Yemenis would claim refugee status.

Middle East Minister Ivan Lewis was quoted as saying the government wanted to "move quickly and discussions have started. It is wonderful news and will bring great relief to members of the Raida Jewish community."

But the Foreign Office would not comment on Wednesday, citing the "purdah" rules which advise ministerial decisions to be delayed until after the election.

A Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations spokesman said: "About 40 families are supposed to be coming imminently." English classes for young Yemenite mothers living in London already take place at a Lubavitch children's centre.

In April last year Immigration Minister Phil Woolas tried to resolve the situation, but the possible move of 120 Yemeni Jews never materialised as they apparently refused to leave.

    Last updated: 3:30pm, April 15 2010