On 4 October, Theresa May told the Conservative Party Conference that, as Brexit gets underway, “the government is choosing a global Britain”.
And an hour before she spoke, a group of students put that speech into action by giving a newly arrived student to the UK a warm welcome that everyone – including Theresa May – could learn from.
Under the wire
Until 1 October, however, he didn’t know if he could come to the UK and start his course. Because, as the Israeli and Egyptian governments control Gaza’s border crossings, people in Gaza need an exit permit to leave.
But after pressure from activists, foreign media, students’ unions, and an MP, Awad got approval from Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to exit Gaza. And he made his way to Britain.
‘Safe and sound’
After Awad landed, students from the Goldsmiths Palestine Society met him at Heathrow to welcome him. And they would take him out to eat in the evening.
Awad wrote on Facebook after he arrived:
And 200 miles away, Exeter Friends of Palestine had also welcomed him:
Exeter Friends of Palestine say congratulations to Mohammed Awad of Gaza, Palestine, who only today was awarded his exit…
The Canary learned from Israeli non-governmental organisation Gisha, and from COGAT, that Ahmed Agga and Amani Hania also received approval to leave Gaza on 3 October and study abroad. But others had a different fate.
Gisha told The Canary that Omar Alshawa, who had received acceptance from Imperial College London, did not get his exit permit in time.
And according to the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee (PCAC) in Gaza, 239 people wanting to study abroad still had travel requests pending as of 26 September – out of 342 such applications in 2017.
On 2-3 October, The Canary asked COGAT about the application status of Agga, Alshawa and Hania; as they had to leave Gaza on 3 October to start their courses abroad.
A COGAT spokesperson told The Canary:
The residents [sic] requests were received at the Ccoordination [sic] and Liaison Administration to Gaza for the dates 17.10 and 24.10. Therefore, they have been taken care of in accordance to the request of the Palestinian authority. Upon receiving the requests, they were transferred for security evaluation.
The Gaza Strip is under the control of the terrorist organization Hamas that calls to perform terrot [sic] attacks against the State of Israel. Hamas is trying to take advantage of Israel’s aid for Gaza residents to transfer money to terrorist infrastructure, explosives and more. Nevertheless, *in order to assist the residents of Gaza*, Israel coordinates their crossings only after performing security evaluations in order to ensure the security of Israeli citizens.
Gisha and PCAC spokesperson Mohammed Meqadmeh told The Canary that PCAC has to submit applications to COGAT at least 40 days in advance. So PCAC sometimes gives an exit date which is later than when a student needs to leave because, if it gives a date that is too soon, COGAT rejects the application.
Gisha also told The Canary that applications for study abroad must include all of the student documents; so COGAT knows when someone’s course starts, and when their student visa from the other country expires.
“A reasonable balance”?
When it comes to exit permits, Shai Grunberg from Gisha told The Canary:
Israel’s ongoing and significant control over many aspects of the lives of Gaza residents comes with a legal responsibility to respect and protect the right of the people affected by that control.
In many cases, it is blatantly clear that no effort is made to strike a reasonable balance between legitimate security concerns and the right of residents of Gaza, including recognition of Israel’s responsibility to maintain normal life in the Strip, make the necessary arrangements for the prompt and smooth travel of students, and allow all those who need to travel to do so.
If Theresa May’s government really wants a “global Britain”, it can and should start by following the example of Awad’s welcoming committee, and defending the right to free movement of Palestinians and others around the world.
– Join The Canary to support our work holding the powerful to account.
– Support Gisha’s campaigns to protect free movement for Palestinians.
Featured image via Awad / Wikimedia
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?