Palestinian student with UK scholarship faces forfeiting his place after being denied exit visa

A Palestinian student who received a scholarship to study for his Masters at London’s Goldsmiths University may have to forfeit his place due to his travel papers being delayed by the Israeli authorities. 

Mohammed Awad, 28, was granted a fully-funded place on the MA in Multilingualism, Linguistics, & Education course at Goldsmiths which began on October 1.

But he is still stranded in the coastal enclave without the necessary paperwork due to lengthy delays in processing his application.

According to Gisha, an Israeli NGO which aims to protect Palestinians’ freedom of movement, 342 Gazans who have won places at colleges and universities abroad have applied to leave the Strip since January 2017. Of these 239 applications remain pending, seven were outright refused, 50 were returned or placed under review, and no more than 73 have been granted the necessary permission.

The 10-year-old Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade has made leaving Gaza notoriously difficult. There are only three exit routes – two via Israel, and one at the Rafah crossing with Egypt. The latter has largely been closed since 2007.

“The result of the strict travel restrictions Israel imposes on Gaza residents is that many times approvals of exits, if received at all, are provided late, after the applicants’ visas expired, or after the academic year has already begun. There are no guarantees a student from Gaza will be able to reach his/her destination on time, or even at all,” a Gisha representative said.

Awad is just one example of Gaza youth who are losing opportunities due to the siege restraining their activities, suffocating their hopes for reaching their full potential. “Israel and Egypt are killing my dream and the dreams of Palestinians,” he wrote on Facebook on Wednesday, after being told security clearance could take up to another 60 days.

Awad missed the chance to study in France back in 2014, as well as a professional development course in the West Bank last year for the same reason.

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