Petition challenges Israel’s practice of barring foreign passport holders from the Israeli occupied Palestinian territory
The Jerusalem Legal Aid Center (JLAC), on December 11, petitioned the Israeli Civil Administration and the Ministry of Interior (MoI) to reinstate the processing of visitor permit renewal requests and to reinstate those whose permits have lapsed. JLAC attorney, Sliman Shahin, presented the petition on behalf of spouses and children of Palestinians who submitted their applications in 2006 and whose permits subsequently expired during processing, were stamped “last permit”, were not renewed, or whose holders are now forced to overstay their three-month permit.
On November 19, all 100 renewal requests returned to the Palestinian MoI, were either rejected or marked as ‘last permit’. Some were extended as late as the end of December, while others expired during processing. Israel has refused to process any new permit renewal applications since then, leaving hundreds of people faced with the prospect of overstaying their permits or exiting the country so as to qualify for a visitor’s permit renewal, and risking being denied reentry.
For instance, Soha N. and her Palestinian husband live in Beit Jala with their two children, ages 6 and 8 years old. Soha and the children are French citizens. Because the Israeli authorities refuse to issue them residency, they have been renewing their permits every three months. Soha’s “last permit” expires December 25th. However, Israeli authorities required her two children to leave by December 4th. The family may be forced to relocate abroad in order to stay together, as the children are now considered “illegal” after overstaying their visas. Shlomo Dror, spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration said that those foreign passport holders with family in the oPt who stay illegally in the country would have to expect “tough consequences.”
Since 2000, Israel has frozen residency permits for Palestinian family unification. Foreign family members must routinely renew their visitor permits every three months following Israeli procedures. There are now 120,000 family unification applications that Israel is refusing to process, affecting an estimated 500,000 people who are now threatened with departure from the oPt in order to keep their families together. The petition by JLAC asks Israeli authorities to continue processing permit renewal requests and to reinstate those whose permits expired so that they are not threatened with arrest and deportation.
“This petition by JLAC is a step toward challenging Israel’s racist policies against Palestinian family reunification. Israel is closing the doors on families who want to stay legally. Denying residency, even through a renewable 3-month visitor permit, is a form of de facto deportation designed to create a demographic change in the oPt by targeting the most vulnerable segment of Palestinian society and forcing them to leave”, said Basil Ayish, a spokesperson from the Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry to the oPt.