A Palestinian student has been permitted to leave the besieged Gaza Strip to study at a British university after complaining to the media of how Israel was failing to grant him his visa on time.
Mohammed Awad, 28, was overjoyed to be accepted as a fully funded student for the MA in Multilingualism, Linguistics, & Education at Goldsmiths, University of London, but had his travel documentation indefinitely delayed by Israel.
However, after complaining to various media outlets including the Independent, Awad revealed that Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) messaged him on Facebook informing him that he would be allowed to exit next Tuesday. The message also alleged that Awad distributed “untrue information in the foreign press” and implied that such actions could “make it difficult” in the future.
Having applied for a visa to exit Gaza through the Erez crossing to travel via Jordan, Awad faced missing out on the beginning of his course next month. If he had been unable to enter before his UK student visa expires on 13 October he would have been forced to reapply at a cost of $1,300, funds he does not have. If he did not arrive before November, Goldsmiths would have cancelled his place.
“My family cannot afford to finance my master’s degree because my father was a worker in Israel and since the closure of the border he’s unemployed most of the time. I have a big family, I have four brothers and four sisters. They work to support my family and survive instead.”
Having applied to 10 university scholarships in the hope of leaving the Strip, Awad was worried that his dream may be snatched away from him for the second time; he was forced to forfeit the chance to study in France after Israel delayed his documentation in 2014.
“I worked hard for such an opportunity. It took one year of dedicated focus, attention and interest… I bought my suitcase and packed my luggage,” said the student from Jabalia, north of Gaza City.
Earlier this week Gary Spedding, a cross-party consultant on Israel and Palestine, wrote a letter to UK MPs encouraging them to intervene in Awad’s case, stating that he could not “stress enough” the importance of bringing students from the occupied territories to study in Britain.
Awad is one of few students permitted to leave Gaza. According to the Israeli NGO Gisha, 289 Palestinian students out of 362 applicants were prevented from pursuing higher education abroad this year alone.
As the blockade on Gaza surpasses its 10th year, hopelessness has taken over many young people. More than half of those who live under siege in the Gaza Strip are under 18-years-old. A rise in depression has particularly been noted among young people who despite attaining high educational levels find that they cannot utilise their skills yet are unable to leave. The Strip has the highest rate of youth unemployment in the world, with 58 per cent of people under 30 out of work in the long term.