Britain must change approach to Gaza evacuations

Pro-Palestinian activists and supporters in London | Henry Nichols/AFP via Getty Images Tiara Sahar Ataii is an aid worker with experience in 15 conflict zones. Every day, the General Authority for Crossings and Borders in Gaza publishes a list on its Facebook page of those permitted to evacuate via the Rafah border crossing to Egypt. Gazans scan the list, hoping to escape Israel’s ongoing bombardment of one of the world’s most densely populated areas, where United Nations officials have warned : “Nowhere and no one is safe.” I check this list every day as well, holding my breath to see if my friend Mohammad’s name is finally on it. Mohammed is a PhD student at a major British university, studying humanitarian relief in his native Gaza, where he lives with his wife, two daughters and a son. I had met him while working in Gaza as an aid worker, and since the escalation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, I’ve been trying to find ways to get him and his family out of Gaza. But what I have encountered in my efforts is a bureaucratic maze from which there is no escape. Although Mohammad has a full scholarship to his university, and a visa application well underway, he’s caught in a Catch-22: According to Britain’s Foreign Office, Mohammad has to have a visa before he can be evacuated. But he can’t finalize his visa paperwork without providing his biometric data at a consulate in Cairo, as the one in Gaza is naturally closed. However, in order to access the Cairo consulate, he needs to be put on an evacuation list — for which he needs a visa. Every government official I speak to is sympathetic — I gather we’re not the first ones to approach them with this conundrum. […]

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