Students from Gaza blocked for travel to studies abroad

Erez Crossing. Photo by Gisha

January 14, 2021. Some 450 academic faculty members in Israel have already signed a petition (Hebrew) calling the Israeli government and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to take immediate action to allow students from Gaza to exit the Strip in order to reach their academic institutions abroad. The petition was initiated and drafted by members of Gisha’s board, against the backdrop of Israel’s ongoing prohibition on almost all travel via Erez Crossing.

Since March 2020, Israeli authorities have agreed to process permit applications in even fewer, rarer circumstances than before, only allowing a small number of patients in need of urgent medical treatment and their companions, and a handful of others, to exit the Strip. Among the people impacted by this continued lockdown at Erez are students, including post-graduate students with lucrative scholarships, enrolled at academic institutions abroad requiring in–person attendance. Before the closure was tightened further in March, students in this situation met Israel’s narrow criteria for travel, one of few exceptions to the sweeping restrictions on movement it enforced well before the pandemic. Rafah Crossing is completely closed.

The academics’ petition states that: “Access to quality higher education is essential in every society. […] We believe that preventing students from Gaza from exiting the Strip because of the coronavirus pandemic, without any security justification, for such a prolonged and indefinite period of time is a wrongful, immoral policy.”

On January 7, Gisha sent a letter (Hebrew) on this matter to COGAT, listing the names of eight students who requested urgent assistance from Gisha. The students are all required to arrive at their campuses in January. This week, Gisha also submitted a petition (Hebrew) to the Jerusalem District Court on behalf of a PhD student who needs to exit the Strip to continue her studies in Jordan. A hearing on her case has been scheduled for next week.