As we wrote our last blog, our Palestinian friend and colleague Nazmi Al-Masri was at the Rafah crossing, sleeping rough in order to come to the UK to carry out research, knowledge exchange activities and to meet with partners and collaborators.
The Rafah crossing into Egypt opens irregularly for two or three days every two or three months. The only other option to leave the Strip is travelling through Israel via the Erez crossing but, for Palestinians, obtaining Israeli permission to travel through Erez is extremely unlikely.
No other routes in/out of the Gaza Strip exist, and people wishing to travel need to apply 6-12 months in advance and wait in a queue of about 30,000 other applicants: Palestinian students who have places at universities abroad; patients who need to receive treatment abroad; and men, women and children travelling to be with their families in the diaspora. The names of Palestinian applicants are announced by local media, and those allowed to travel need to be ready as soon as the Egyptian crossing opens, with only a few hours’ warning,
So Nazmi, his name having been called, waited patiently at Rafah for over 50 hours before he was able to exit the Gaza Strip. We received a message from him as he left and, as his friends and colleagues, we all shared the good news: Nazmi was on his way! Many smiley faces were shared on WhatsApp.
Our colleague arrived at the Egyptian border about midnight and – together with other 120 Palestinian women, children, men – he was turned back. The quota for entry into Egypt by then had been reached, and he and his fellow travellers to nowhere had no option but to return.
Nazmi doesn’t know when he will be able to travel next.