Gaza students appeal to Brown over travel ban

Donald Macintyre
Tuesday 03 June 2008 00:00
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Two Palestinian students who risk losing their places at British universities because Israel has not allowed them to leave Gaza yesterday appealed to the British Government for help.

Their call on the Government to press Israel to allow them out came as the US State Department reinstated Fulbright scholarships for seven Gaza students who they had previously said would lose them because of the travel ban. The US said they were now working "closely" with Israel to secure exit permits.

Wissam Abuajwa, who has a place, a scholarship, and a British visa for an MSc at Nottingham University, said yesterday he wanted to see the Government following the example of the US by securing him permission from Israel.

Mr Abuajwa's case – highlighted on Saturday in The Independent – was one of two considered by Israel's Supreme Court yesterday after a petition brought by the Israeli human rights organisation Gisha. The ban – which Gisha says is keeping hundreds of other students inside Gaza – was imposed after Hamas's armed takeover last June and tightened in January this year.

The case was adjourned for two weeks. But one of the judges, Elyakim Rubinstein, expressed unease at the ban, saying it seemed "no less harmful to the Israeli interest because we have to live with the Palestinians in the future, too". He suggested that preventing access to education could "harm chances for some kind of co-existence".

A spokesman for Tony Blair, the international Middle East envoy, said in response to a letter from Mr Abuajwa that he "strongly believes Palestinians should be able to pursue their education" and would pass the letter on to the Government.

Abir Abu Warda, 29, who risks losing her Ford Foundation-funded place at London Metropolitan University, said she hoped the Government would "help us all to travel to the UK".

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