Thousands refused passports in Gaza

Published today (updated) 22/05/2011 15:42

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Demonstrators gathered in Gaza City on Saturday to protest the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to grant passports to 30,000 Gaza residents.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have have been unable to get passports issued by the Fatah-led PA, residents say, because of factional tensions, despite the recent reconciliation agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip.

Salim Sharab, organizer of a campaign to demand passports for all residents, blamed the Palestinian Authority Minister of Interior in Ramallah for rejecting applications from Gaza.

He asked: “Are we paying a toll for political affiliation?”

Sharab added that those denied passports had a right to be told if they were considered spies for foreign governments, and deserved explanations as to why they were being prohibited from exiting the coastal enclave.

Patients needing medical care abroad, students and hajj pilgrims are among the rejected applicants.

Osama Fuad Abu Askar, of Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, joined Saturday’s protest in Gaza City’s Unknown Soldier square. He has been trying to get a passport for four years.

“I lost my legs in 2004 during Israeli shelling and since 2007 I have been trying to get a passport so I can travel abroad and get prosthetic limbs. As a disabled man, how can I be a threat?” he asked.

Askar said reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah was pointless “if Palestinian citizens can’t get their basic rights.

“Passports are not exclusive rights for Hamas or Fatah.”

Mahmoud Abu Sweirih, another protester, said he had been married for 13 years but he and his wife have not been able to have children.

“Doctors said I needed treatment abroad, but I can’t go because I can’t get a passport. How come one individual determines my fate? Doesn’t the Palestinian constitution give me the right to have a passport?”

Campaign organizer Sharab appealed to human rights groups and the Arab League to help resolve the situation.

Director of the Addamir human rights organization Khalil Abu Shammala said passports were an inalienable right guaranteed by the constitution and international law.

“Our representatives held several meetings with PA officials in the West Bank. We planned to file legal proceedings, but waited because we had promises that the case would be resolved once the reconciliation agreement was signed,” Abu Shammala said.


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