Palestinian visa breakthrough after days of uncertainty

Kat Wong |

At least eight people fleeing Gaza for Australia have had their visas reinstated.
At least eight people fleeing Gaza for Australia have had their visas reinstated.

Some Palestinians who had Australian visas cancelled while fleeing Gaza have had their documents reinstated, but others remain trapped.

A number of Palestinians attempting to reunite with families in Australia had their visas revoked en route, leaving them stuck in transit countries.

The government recommended they apply for tourist visas, but they soon received emails telling them their permission would be cancelled because of a belief the applicants did not intend to stay temporarily in Australia.

At least eight of 12 people supported by Palestine Australia Relief and Action had their visas reinstated.

Cabinet minister Murray Watt said the visas were cancelled when additional checks were undertaken, particularly in situations where people left Gaza without explanation.

But further information prompted the checks to be reversed.

“What we’re about as a government is making sure that the Australian community is kept safe – that we undertake proper security checks on people seeking to come to Australia,” Senator Watt said.

Asked if the government could have handled the situation better, the minister said: “We’re dealing with a conflict zone here.”

“At times different information will come to light and the bottom line is that we need to be making the best security-based decisions about providing these sorts of visas.”

One of the affected Palestinians was a journalist named Rami.

While travelling through Istanbul en route to Australia with his wife and three children, he was told that he and his partner’s visas had been cancelled.

But the children, aged two, six and ten, could have continued travelling to Australia with their grandfather.

Refusing to part with their kids, the family was stranded in the Turkish airport until the government reinstated their visas.

Reem Borrows from Palestine Australia Relief and Action said while the family was relieved, others remained in limbo.

Hani, another Palestinian receiving support, has spent more than four days at an airport in Istanbul.

“We want to make sure that the process and systems are correct so that no one has to go through this again,” Ms Borrows said.

“The good news is that the government is willing to sit down and work with us on every single case, to make sure that we rectify it very quickly.”

Protesters interrupted Question Time in federal parliament on Monday, standing up in the public gallery brandishing Palestinian flags and calling for a ceasefire.

Shouting “shame on you” and “ceasefire now”, the demonstrators leapt to their feet while Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus was addressing the House of Representatives.

The protesters were escorted by security out of the gallery.

On October 7, 2023, Hamas – designated a terrorist group by the Australian government – killed 1200 people and took another 200 hostage, according to Israeli officials.

Israel has killed more than 31,000 Palestinians in the months since, displaced 1.7 million Gazans and pushed many to the brink of starvation, according to the United Nations and the local health ministry.

After a two-month pause, the Australian government has unfrozen funding for a United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees.

But Israeli authorities have continued blocking aid into Gaza, Oxfam director Sally Abi Khalil said.

“Israeli authorities are not only failing to facilitate the international aid effort but are actively hindering it,” she said.

“Israel is failing to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will continue the push into Gaza even as famine looms.