Following appeal by Gisha, COGAT confirms 180 students from Gaza will be allowed to travel over the summer to reach their academic institutions abroad
On June 2, 2015, Gisha’s executive director, Adv. Eitan Diamond, contacted COGAT (Hebrew), asking to make the necessary arrangements to allow students from Gaza to travel abroad via Israel and the Allenby Bridge border crossing over the summer. Given that most academic programs begin in September, the fact that Rafah Crossing is closed and the many difficulties encountered by students who attempted to travel for the 2014/2015 winter semester, COGAT was asked to make arrangements for student travel through Erez into Israel and from there to Jordan, from which they can continue to their academic institutions abroad.
After arrangements were made to accommodate travel by worshippers from Gaza to attend Friday prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in recent months, Gisha asked that similar arrangements be made for the exit of as many students as possible in shuttles running from Erez Crossing to Allenby Bridge Crossing and from there abroad. In its letter, Gisha expressed concern that, if barred exit, students would miss the academic year that is set to begin in September 2015, and may lose both their visa for the relevant country and their scholarship. Gisha stressed that COGAT’s obligation to allow travel is rooted in the recognition of Gaza Strip residents’ rights to freedom of movement and higher education and in a commitment to uphold these rights.
COGAT’s response (Hebrew) arrived on June 21, 2015, stating “there is a weekly quota for travel through ‘Allenby’ crossing, including for the purpose of travel for studies for advanced degrees. As a rule, as part of the policy of restricting travel between Israel and the Gaza Strip, which is predicated on weighty political and security considerations, students wishing to travel for non-advanced degrees do not meet the terms of the policy as published and implemented”.
However, COGAT did note in the response that it has decided, beyond the requirement of law and as an exception, to allow 180 students from Gaza, some of them undergraduate students, to travel abroad via Allenby Bridge border crossing, according to a list provided by the Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Committee. According to the statement, the students will leave in five different groups of 30 students each month, subject to individual security screening.