In a new escalation of Israel’s policy of denying Palestinians and their families access to the Israeli occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), the Israeli Civil Administration at Beit El is refusing to accept at least 140 passports for visa extensions. The passport holders are mostly spouses and children of Palestinian I.D.-holders and are residing in the oPt. Many of them have been forced to become “illegal” since their visitor visas have expired while waiting to be renewed by Israel.
Twenty-seven-year-old Subha G is one of these cases. Her mother, brothers and her husband all have Palestinian IDs, but her request for family reunification has been frozen since 1997. “I am seven months pregnant and I am afraid of leaving to renew my visa and becoming stranded outside the country. My whole family is here.” Subha said. Palestinian IDs can only be issued by Israel. Since Israel is refusing to process an estimated 120,000 family unification residency applications of spouses and children of Palestinians, foreign family members must renew their visa every three months. All foreign spouses and children of Palestinians who requested visa extensions in October had their passports returned from Beit El on November 19th stamped “Last permit.” The passport holders are required to leave the country before their visas expire, which in some cases occurred during Israel’s processing of the visa extension application. Israeli authorities are regularly denying entry to family members of Palestinians when they attempt to cross the Israeli controlled borders to the Israeli oPt.
Soha N., a French citizen, lives in Beit Jala with her Palestinian husband and their two children, ages six and eight years old. The Israeli authorities refuse to issue residency to Soha and her children. Therefore, they have been renewing their visas every three months. After applying in October for another visa extension, they received their passports back marked “last permit.” Soha’s final extension lasts until December 25th. Israeli authorities required her two children to leave by December 4th. The family may now be forced to relocate abroad, as their children are now considered “illegal” after overstaying their visas. Shlomo Dror, spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration states that those foreign passport holders with family in the oPt who stay illegally in the country, should expect “tough consequences.”
“Israel is working overtime to create a demographic change in the oPt by targeting the most vulnerable segment of Palestinian society, denying them residency and forcing them to leave,” said Basil Ayish, a spokesperson from the Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry to the oPt. “Palestinian residency holders are likely to follow their spouses and children to another country in order to stay together,” Ayish explained.