The University of Cambridge is now temporarily banning its students from undertaking their year abroad in Palestine, after several of its students reported facing difficulties travelling to and from the politically contentious area.
Five students currently pursuing their year abroad in the Palestinian territories were either interrogated or deported by Israeli security, according to The Evening Standard.
A spokesman for the University of Cambridge said: “Whilst we do not ban independent travel to, or study in, the Palestinian territories, students cannot choose to spend their year abroad in the West Bank for the time being due to recent difficulties faced by students in securing visa renewals from the Israeli authorities.”
“This is regrettable but our first duty is to ensure that students are able to complete their year abroad in an Arabic-speaking region before commencing their final year of study at the University of Cambridge.”
As part of their course, these students have to spend eight months abroad in a country where their chosen discipline is the first language.
However, for students who choose to study in Palestine, mostly at Ramallah’s Birzeit University, they have been facing difficulties at Ben-Gurion Airport, in Tel-Aviv throughout the 2016/17 academic year.
Travelling by road from Tel Aviv is one of the two routes available for students to enter Palestine. The other is from Jordan via an Israeli-controlled border crossing.
Security checks on the Israeli sides have been ramped up this year, The Evening Standard reported. The lack of study visas from Tel Aviv, which would let students stay in Palestine longer without having to leave and re-enter every three months, is another problem students face.
Cleodie Rickard, 21, said:
“I found out that a number of students, coming from different universities around the world, had been kicked out of Israel because they had admitted to studying in Palestine.”
Rickard was interrogated for six hours and made to stay overnight in a detention centre earlier this year before being deported and flown back to the UK. She is now allegedly banned from Israel.
“I did nothing wrong. I didn’t commit a crime or do anything illegal but once they realised I might be spending time in the West Bank their whole approach to me just flipped.
“The interrogators screamed in my face, yelling things like ‘F*** you’ and ‘This is my country’. They said they had unlocked my phone and spoken to all my friends and family, saying I’d been working as a volunteer in Palestine – none of which was true. It was so surreal.”
The Evening Standard noted that another Cambridge student was refused entry into Israel via the Jordan crossing.