Freedom of Movement
Following a petition of the Society of St. Yves

Following a petition of the Society of St. Yves, R’s official address was changed from Gaza to the West Bank. Now she can go on living with her family, without the constant threat of deportation and with the possibility to go out from the West Bank and return back.

R was born in Egypt in the year 1935 and later on moved to Gaza and lived there with her husband till the year 2000. In 2000 they moved to Bethlehem, where their children and families live. After the death of her husband in the year 2005, R continued to live in Bethlehem, as there was nothing and nobody for her in Gaza anymore. Furthermore, R suffers from serious medical problems; she cannot move without assistance and needs the help and support of her family, who lives in Bethlehem.

R problems arose when she wished to go and see her dying brother in Egypt. She had to pass through Allenby Bridge to Jordan and feared to be stopped at the border because her official address is in Gaza and she is coming, in fact, from the West Bank. Moreover, she feared she wouldn’t be allowed back into the West Bank and so she will be forced to move to Gaza, away from her home and family. These reasons urged R to request for an official address change from Gaza to Bethlehem.

After receiving the case St. Yves turned to the legal adviser’s bureau of the population registry on behalf of R. After 4 months and a reminder letter, we received a laconic answer which turns R to the District Coordinating Office in Bethlehem area and they added that with this they finished dealing with the case.

R followed the advice and turned a few times to the Bethlehem office. The officials there didn’t understand why she came to them and refused to accept her request.

According to the Oslo accords the Palestinian Authority is empowered to update the registered addresses of its residents in the Palestinian population registry and the Israeli side is obliged to update its registry according to the PA’s data. In practice, starting October 2000 with the beginning of the second Intifada, the Israelis refused to update any address changes from Gaza to the West Bank, not basing their refuse on any law or provision, while ignoring basic human rights like freedom of movement, personal security and family life of Palestinians and ignoring international laws and treaties protecting these rights. All is part of various measures designated to separate the West Bank and the Gaza strip into two separate entities and to prevent any movement of population from Gaza to the West Bank while encouraging movement in the opposite direction.

St. Yves turned to the population registry once more in June 2008 and were rejected again. The reason given referred to a policy which prohibits Gaza residents to settle down in the West Bank, excluding extremely rare cases. They added that these kinds of requests are supposed to be transmitted, through high rank officials in the PA, to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (“the Coordinator”).

We turned to the Coordinator on the 25th of August 2008 and this time the answer was positive. In October 2008, after one year and 4 months of repeatable requests, the authorities changed R’s official address from Gaza to Bethlehem in the West Bank. This removed off the shoulders of a 74 years old lady the threat of being considered an illegal alien in her own home in Bethlehem and made it possible for her to go to Egypt and visit her sick brother and come back home.

It has to be noted that this success is filled with doubts concerning the arbitrary nature of the decision. As a matter of fact the decision to change R’s official address is arbitrary as much as a decision to refuse such a change. This is the first time that St. Yves came across consent to make such a change and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories or any other authority has not given or published any information regarding the procedures in which it is possible to confirm such a change and who is officially in charge of making the decisions. Thus, the policy remains vague and harms the basic human rights of many Palestinians who continue to suffer from the problem.

Related Items

• Following a petition of the Society of St. Yves • Moving freely - a universal right • The legal framework
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