62 students from Gaza travel – significantly late – to academic institutions abroad

Students in Gaza. Photo by Eman Mohammed

Students in Gaza. Photo by Eman Mohammed

In numbers:
294 students were included on a list transferred by the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee to Israel.
99 students received permits, and 71 arrived at the crossing.
71 students exited through Erez Crossing.
62 students exited through Erez Crossing.
9 students had to remain in Gaza for different reasons.

November 9, 2015. Over the last two days, 62 students from Gaza travelled through Israel on their way to universities abroad. The students exited through Erez Crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, and continued to Jordan via the Allenby Bridge border crossing. It is not clear if and when 232 additional students who have requested to travel for academic studies will be able to exit.

Seventy-one students arrived at the crossing yesterday, but nine were unable to travel for various reasons. Three were held for “security interviews”, and though they all had exit permits, only one was eventually allowed to cross – a day later. Eight others were forced to return to the Gaza Strip for not having proper transit documents for Jordan.

Between Egypt, Israel and Jordan

Student travel abroad via Rafah Crossing and Egypt has been nearly impossible since mid-2013. Rafah Crossing itself is closed most days of the year. Hundreds of young Palestinians from Gaza, who in the past, travelled abroad to study, have found themselves dependent on the Israeli authorities in order to travel from Gaza via Erez Crossing, and on authorities in Jordan, where they have to transit en route to third countries.

Though, according to the criteria enforced by Israel undergraduates are not entitled to permits for travel via Erez Crossing, in practice, Israel will allow some students to travel to study abroad, according to lists of names it receives from the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee.

The committee has provided the Israeli authorities with several student lists since October 2014, but these have often been provided late, after the applicants’ visas expired, or after the academic year had already begun. Other times, applications were denied or received no answer by the Israeli authorities. Though hundreds of names have been provided to Israel since October 2014, only 291 students have travelled through Erez Crossing in several groups, most recently yesterday. Hundreds of students are still waiting in Gaza, hoping their permits are approved before their visas or Jordanian transit permits expire.

On October 29, Gisha sent a letter (Hebrew) to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, requesting that he arrange exit for students from Gaza via Erez Crossing seeking to reach their studies abroad. Given that many of the students currently stuck in Gaza have missed the start of the academic year, Gisha has called on COGAT to make arrangements as necessary for the prompt and smooth travel of students for next semester, in January 2016 and allow all those who need to travel to do so.