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8.2.2015

HaMoked and Gisha to the military and the population authority: revoke the harmful requirement that minors seeking to visit Gaza must deposit their Israeli passport or travel document at Erez Crossing

Over the years, Israelis seeking entry to Gaza were required to deposit their Israeli identity cards at Erez Crossing. Minors who were listed in their parents' ID-card appendix were identified on its basis and allowed into Gaza.

In 2007, the Israeli population authority began requiring that Israeli residents and citizens who sought entry to Gaza present and deposit their Israeli passport or travel (laissez-passer) document at Erez Crossing. The requirement was lifted after HaMoked explained to the authorities the difficulties raised by this demand. However, in May 2014, HaMoked learnt that population authority officials at Erez Crossing had reinstated this demand, although it entailed the same difficulties as before.

In May 20, 2014, HaMoked and Gisha wrote to the military to demand this requirement be cancelled immediately. In their letter, the organizations reiterated the harm the requirement caused to visitors to Gaza and asserted, inter alia, that residents of East Jerusalem – who are not entitled to have an Israeli passport – were unable to travel through Erez Crossing with the Jordanian passport many of them possessed; thus, they were forced to pay hundreds in Israeli currency for an Israeli laissez-passer document, even though the law does not require they leave the country with an Israeli travel document. HaMoked further explained that other groups also found themselves in an impossible position as a result of this demand, among them members of "divided families" (namely families where one spouse is an Israeli resident or citizen and the other a resident of the OPT) who stay in the Gaza Strip pursuant to stay permits; and so do Gaza residents living in Israel under a family unification procedure with only a stay permit or temporary Israeli status, hence, are ineligible for an Israeli passport or travel document. HaMoked criticized the fact that the requirement was not published in an official regular procedure, but rather communicated by word of mouth among those who seek to visit Gaza.

In response to HaMoked's letter, the military supplied several contradictory and confused responses; one military official claimed that there was no change except for the new demand for a passport photo, another claimed that there was in fact a new requirement made by the population authority that in addition to an ID card, a passport or laissez-passer document be deposited at Erez Crossing.

On June 30, 2014, the military apologized for the previous miscommunications, and presented what purports to be the final version of the new requirement to date: as of July 30, 2014, Israelis over age 16 may continue entering Gaza simply by presenting their Israeli ID cards, in the same manner practiced over the years. However, if they possess a passport or travel document, they must deposit it at the crossing. Moreover, Israelis under 16 must deposit their Israeli passport or travel document without exception – and so must obtain one for the purpose – in order to facilitate their identification process. Additionally, all visitors must submit two passport photos.
HaMoked and Gisha again appealed to the military to cancel the demand even if it only applied to minors under age 16. HaMoked reasserted that the new procedure primarily harms three groups of minors in seeking entry to Gaza: minors living in East Jerusalem, minors from "divided families", and minors born in Gaza who live in Israel pursuant to a family unification procedure. HaMoked added that the requirement for a travel document does not facilitate the identification of the minors and turns the visit to Gaza into a heavy financial burden, especially for families with several children.

In response, the military claimed the matter was not under its authority and that all relevant arguments should be directed to the population authority. On February 5, 2015, HaMoked and Gisha wrote to the population authority with details about the severe harm resulting from the travel-document deposit requirement, and demanded that the authority reconsider its position in the matter.
mail@hamoked.org.il (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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