Gisha files two urgent petitions on behalf of two women and their children whose applications to enter Israel for a visa interview at the Swedish Consulate were denied
On December 2, 2015, Gisha filed two urgent petitions with the Be’er Sheva District Court on behalf of two women and their children (Hebrew), who requested to enter Israel for a visa interview at the Swedish Consulate in east Jerusalem. The two families were to attend interviews for immigration visas, after which, they would be able to move from the Gaza Strip to Sweden and reunite with the respective fathers of the families, who have been living in Sweden for more than two years.
Both applications were refused with a brief statement from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), saying that “the application fails to meet criteria”. However, a review of the most recent Permissions Status document, dated November 26, 2015, clearly indicates that exiting for a visa interview in one of the consulates located in Israel is permitted and will generally be made available on a day-permit basis. COGAT even has a specific operating procedure for this issue entitled Procedure for issuing Israeli entry permits for the purpose of visiting a consulate/embassy (Hebrew), from June 2015.
Hence, COGAT’s allegations are not supported by the facts and the decision to deny the families entry into Israel for a visa interview at the Swedish consulate is unreasonable. The decision also severely violates the rights of the families to freedom of movement and family life, seeing as without the visa interview, the women and their children will not receive the immigration visa and will not be able to reunite with the fathers who eagerly await them in Sweden.
The petitions were filed along with a motion for an urgent hearing, given the visa interview dates – December 9 and 10, 2015.
Update: on Sunday, December 6, 2015, counsel for the state said the applications made by the women and children to enter Israel for a visa interview at the Swedish consulate will be approved.
The speedy approval of the applications immediately after two urgent petitions were filed demonstrates that the initial refusal was unfounded to begin with. The state’s conduct also shows that, unfortunately, simple exit permits that meet the military’s own criteria cannot be obtained without going to court.