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Cambridge University's Arabic language students barred from Palestine for 'year abroad' programme

Israel does not offer student visas to the West Bank [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 October, 2017

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Arabic language students from the top British university will no longer be able to study in Palestinian territories for their year abroad after Israeli authorities refused to grant visa renewals.
Arabic language students at a renowned British university can no longer choose to complete their "one year abroad" programme inside Palestinian territories, after Israeli authorities refused to issue visas to cover their full stay.

Students from the University of Cambridge spend at least eight months in an Arabic-speaking country as part of their language course.

International students usually opt to study in Egypt, Jordan or the West Bank, with those choosing to study inside Palestinian territories often attending the notable Birzeit University in Ramallah.

However, a recent incident saw five Cambridge University students interrogated by authorities at the airport in Tel Aviv over the reason for an intended "long stay" in the West Bank. They were subsequently denied entry and deported by Israeli security.

Israel does not offer student visas to the West Bank and as a result, international students who wish to study there are forced to exit and re-enter the territories every three months.

As a result, the University of Cambridge no longer gives students the option of studying inside Palestinian territories, citing "recent difficulties faced by students in securing visa renewals from the Israeli authorities," according to a university spokesperson.

"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," the spokesperson added.

The university's Palestine Society said they were "extremely saddened" to learn that the university was forced to prevent students from spending their year abroad in the West Bank.

"We understand, of course, that given the extremely distressing interrogations and deportations that their students were subjected to by the Israeli border authorities, the faculty had no choice but to implement this new policy," a spokesperson told The New Arab.

"We feel that it is incredibly unfortunate that Cambridge students will now be unable to study at one of the leading universities in the Middle East, and denied the chance to see first-hand the effects of the occupation on the West Bank."

The barring of the Palestinian territories from possible destinations for Arabic language students follows the removal of Syria – once was a popular choice for many international students until the civil war broke out in 2011.

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