UK students stuck in Gaza

By Ben Lynfield, June 6, 2008

Two Palestinian students accepted for study at UK universities but trapped in the Gaza Strip by Israeli travel strictures have issued pleas for Britain to intervene on their behalf.

Abir Abu Warda, accepted for a master’s in urban design at London Metropolitan University, and Wisam Abuajwa, accepted for a master’s degree in environmental studies at Nottingham University, told the JC that only the intervention of the Foreign Office could save their study plans in the face of a blanket Israeli ban on Gazans travelling abroad for higher education.

The American Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, intervened on behalf of seven Gaza students awarded Fulbright scholarships for study in the US after the New York Times published an article about their plight last Friday.

Ms Abu Warda, 29, has been awarded a fellowship for her one-year course by the US-based Ford Foundation. “I have been living in hell. I’m afraid I will lose the scholarship. We don’t have my field of study here and even if we did, I have the right to choose where to study.”

The Israeli Gisha human-rights organisation estimates that there are hundreds of other students in a similar situation. It is mounting a challenge against the policy in the Israeli Supreme Court, using Mr Abuajwa as a test case.

Peter Lerner, spokesman of the Co-ordinator of Activities in the Territories, told the JC: “The policy is that only humanitarian cases be allowed out of Gaza, especially medical cases. Hamas is responsible for Gaza and it attacks the crossings. When a crossing is shut down because of an attack, it influences the amount of people or goods that can pass through.”

Mr Lerner said that with the approach of the 2008 autumn term, “we are looking into facilitating requests [to leave Gaza]”.

A spokesperson from the Foreign Office said: “We have raised the issue of university students with the Israeli authorities on a number of occasions and will continue to do so.”

Last updated: 10:15am, June 5 2008