Applying for a tourist visa or to receive residency status in a foreign country can be a long and exhausting process for most people. For Palestinians in Gaza, apart from the wait for an appointment to receive consular services, there is an additional hurdle: The bureaucracy of Israel’s permit regime.

Residents of Gaza who are required to attend in-person appointments at foreign embassies or consulates in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem also need a permit from Israel to travel via Erez Crossing. Like most permit applications submitted by Palestinians in Gaza, many of those who apply for a permit to access consular services in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem are either denied permits by the Israeli authorities, or receive no response to their applications, causing them to miss long-awaited appointments.

This is what happened to Nasser (pseudonym), a resident of Gaza we are assisting, who needs to reach the United States embassy as part of an immigration process that has been ongoing  for more than four years. A day before his appointment, Israeli authorities denied his permit application to cross through Erez Crossing, leaving his young children to attend the meeting at the embassy without him. Nasser’s children have since completed the immigration process and have been waiting in the USA, with his wife, to be reunited with Nasser. After missing an additional appointment because another permit application by Nasser went unanswered by Israel, and after Gisha’s inquiries on his behalf were unsuccessful, we filed an urgent administrative petition in February. By the time Israeli authorities eventually approved Nasser’s permit request, it was too late: Their response came in the late afternoon on the day of the appointment, and Nasser could not make it through Erez Crossing in time.

Hamed (pseudonym), also a Gaza resident, was accepted for undergraduate studies in the USA. He was due to attend an interview at the US embassy in Jerusalem to receive his student visa in early February, so he applied for a permit from Israel. For weeks, Hamed received no answer to his application. The first semester of his studies began in early March. The date of his embassy appointment came and went, and still no response from Israel was received. Gisha contacted the authorities on Hamed’s behalf ahead of a new appointment, scheduled to take place in late March. Though we were told his application had been processed, Hamed did not receive an official response until the evening before the interview, which luckily, he was able to attend.

Last month, we also assisted Hanaa (pseudonym), a Gaza resident who was trying to complete an immigration process that would allow her to reunite with her spouse and their one-year-old daughter in the US. After she missed an interview at the embassy due to non-response from Israel, we contacted the authorities on Hanaa’s behalf, and her application was approved the very next day. The swift approval from Israeli authorities, after months of ignoring Hanaa’s application, indicates just how needlessly she was forced to wait in the first place.

Israel’s ongoing closure of Gaza adds another obstacle to the already complex bureaucracy involved in immigration or international travel, undermining Palestinians’ legitimate right to access consular services. Considering the dire living conditions in the Strip, receiving these services is sometimes needed to meet basic, humanitarian needs such as family reunification, and access to education or medical treatment. The inadequate conduct of Israeli authorities in responding to permit applications can also add expenses to a process that is already costly. Thus, Israel effectively prevents travel by Gaza residents even for the few who meet its narrow criteria, leaving them stuck in permit limbo.