Saturday, December 15, 2018

Foreigners married to Palestinians canít access family reunification


By Anna Donati - November 26, 2018
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Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [family reunification]

In any country governed by laws, family reunification takes various forms, but it is still rare to see what can be seen and experienced at the hands of Israel. 

When marrying a partner from another country,  family reunification is often granted by the country of the husband or wife. Though foreign women married to Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem are constantly worried of their future, as well as that of their children.
 
The Israeli practices against families, residing in occupied Palestinian territory, mainly concern "our Palestinian husbands," Kate Hamad, a 32-year-old woman from Iowa declared.
 
"These practices push us into confinement where they punish our husbands for their activism, exploiting our nationality, with grave consequences for our daily lives," she continued.
 
Though still holding up to date identity documents, foreigners are aware of the privilege they have over their Palestinian family, only they encounter another kind of problem.
 
"We are regularly treated as criminals, objects of unfounded suspicion and administrative and moral harassment, risking or expelled from the territory, including the unborn child.” Kate Hamad continued.
 
And it is simply because they aspire to live a normal family life in the country of their husbands and their children.
 
Whether it is East Jerusalem or the West Bank, it is Israel who decides whether or not to grant family reunion.
 
COGAT, a department of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, has denied having adopted stricter rules over the years, saying that visa applications are judged on a case-by-case basis.
 
In practice, there are thousands of cases in limbo and many families living in the instability of short stay visas of random durations, which can be refused at any time often with exorbitant conditions.
 
As a result, thousands of people are in abeyance, with residence requests often ignored or rejected, leaving them only the opportunity to apply for temporary visas to Israel, according to the Association France-Palestine.
 
"You're just a visitor, and you just have to beg for your status," said Morgan Cooper, 36, a 36-year-old native of California, who has just extended her 6-month tourist visa.
 
She was refused a one year visa she was first promised, even though her family is in Palestine.
 
The reported increase in visa problems comes at a time when hopes for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem to have dissipated.
 
The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the US pushed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to slam the door on more than two decades of intermittent negotiations, as long as the United States remains the only mediator.
 
Over the years, residence permits for foreign spouses of Palestinians have become a bargaining chip, with Israel sometimes accepting quotas and freezing demands in times of crisis.
 
About 25,000 applications are still pending, out of a total of 65,000 submitted since the mid-1990s, said Walid Wahdan of the Palestinian Civil Affairs Department.
 
He stated that his department has largely stopped submitting requests for family reunification, arguing that Israel refuses to receive them.
 
Thus, those married to Palestinians in the West Bank are denied access to their consulate in Jerusalem and denied their freedom of movement by visas for the West Bank only, even though this is illegal under international law.
 
They are forbidden to travel through Ben Gurion airport and must obtain a visa for Jordan whenever they wish to fly internationally from Amman.
 
In violation of the law, the Israeli authorities almost systematically record the Palestinian identity number of children in their foreign passports, with real consequences for these families, when the mother and the child for example, are not always allowed to leave the territory by the same terminal.
 
Israeli interference in the lives of these families goes so far as to try to deprive them of the right to work in order to provide for the family, refusing visas on the basis of employment contracts that are valid in Palestinian law.
 
As for those married to permanent residents of East Jerusalem, their families face other difficulties. This is directly related to the openly assumed project of the Israeli Judaization Authority of East Jerusalem and its policy of revoking the permanent residence status of thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem (at least 14,000 since 1967).
 
It is confirmed and extended by a law passed by the Knesset on March 7, 2018 which provides for the dismissal in case of "breach of the duty of loyalty," potentially threatening spouses and children.
 
Like the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, they must prove that their center of life is "on the right side" of the separation wall and face obstacles in registering the births of their children, that is, getting them a paper of  birth certificate and an identity number.
 
"Three of our children are thus unregistered, while estimates by Israeli NGOs suggest that the phenomenon affects more than 10,000 children in East Jerusalem,” Aurélie D., of French origin, said.
 
The authorities constantly refer them to their French nationality, ordering them to register the children at the consulate. The stakes are clear: it is for the Israeli authorities to use the dual nationality of children to deprive them of their right to be registered and to live in their country of origin, and, at the same time, to push out the families concerned.
 
"We reported our situation to Mr. Pierre Cochard, Consul General in Jerusalem who, despite his repeated efforts, could not get answers from the Israeli authorities on our cases,” Aurélie D. said.
 
In desperation, they exposed their problems to the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs during their visit last April, who pledged to act. They have also written to the French Prime Minister, and are in regular contact with the consular and diplomatic services of their countries of origin, with no results so far.
 
"In this context, understand our anger at the festive reception reserved for Benjamin Netanyahu, especially in France," said Maureen.F, a French national.
 
"A head of government who supports live ammunition against children and unarmed civilians, and whose administration violates daily and blithely the most basic rights of the protected persons under his control, ours and those of our spouses and children included."
 
These spouses constantly see the teams of administrations change, their records go from hands to hand, without their case being fully heard and understood.
 
These fights are also costly because they must all be represented by lawyers so that they may one day be able to access one of their most basic rights, that of living with their husbands and children in the land of their choice.
 
Their children have the fundamental right to live with both parents in Palestine.

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