Global Policy Forum

Briefing note for the TFPI: B1 Visa Update and Other Access Issues


Association of International Development Agencies
May 13, 2003

B1 Visas:-

Since April 14 (announcement by Minister Poraz that all INGOs will receive B1 working visas), several NGOs have been to the MoI in West Jerusalem to apply for a B1. On application, we are told that we are eligible only if we can prove that we work in Jerusalem (read: not east Jerusalem) for 40 hours per week, and that we don't work in the Territories. We have to write this declaration ourselves and sign it. To date, there is no clear pattern of results, but the following shows the general picture:

  • Approximately one third of applicants have received a B1.
  • NGOs registered with the Israeli Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MOLSA) stand the greatest chance of receiving a B1, although some of the rejections have been from agencies registered with MOLSA. Those who received a B1 ranged from between 6 months to 1 year validity.
  • NGOs not registered with MOLSA are rejected (e.g. including EC/ECHO funded).
  • NGOs who are based in east Jerusalem (Beit Hanina, Shu'fat) are rejected, and told to go to the East Jerusalem MoI. (NB: this branch of the MoI is for Palestinian nationals only; they do not deal with 'foreigners' and have never heard of the B1 issue).
  • A number of NGOs will not even try to apply because they don't want to have to lie about their activities.
  • Analysis: Despite Poraz political commitment, clearly the GoI, or MoI, does not want to give us B1's and does not like/accept that we work in the Territories. They are even contradicting their own 'Jerusalem' argument. In addition, to ensure that we don't all have a pleasant time, they have put Yochi Levy in charge of all applications and she has the final say. She is a low level civil servant and is just about the worst person that the MoI could possibly find to undertake this task. Altogether, these anomalies could be said to constitute more than just teething problems.


The message from this letter is as follows: We are stopping activities in the Gaza Strip for purely practical reasons. But we are extremely concerned that this will send the wrong message to the Israelis. Therefore, we need to resume activities as soon as possible. The main issue is that the closure of Gaza must be seen as part of a broader sweep to root out all 'unwanted' persons/agencies (human rights activists, Islamic groups, Arab nationals, NGOs working on 'sensitive' rights based projects, any foreigners that they deem undesirable), and the long term implications for INGOs should not be overlooked,

and are as follows:

  • Operational: NGOs will be forced to stop operations as long as severe obstacles remain. [One large French NGO officially has]. If Gaza is open, we can't be sure that staff with tourist visas (B2) will be allowed in (as per the Friday announcement). We also can't be sure that excessive delays will now not become the norm.
  • Political: The IDF/GSS will now decide who is a 'bona fide' NGO and who is allowed access to Gaza (and possibly also 'sensitive' areas around the Wall in the WB). Currently, they are calling NGOs to ask for information on their projects, staff, funding etc. for what they term an 'NGO database'. A very polite, unknown (to NGOs who regularly utilize the DCL mechanism) Lt. Bekenstein (08 674.1406) who claims to be at COGAT Erez has been doing the calling.
  • Security: When, and if, Gaza is open again, and regardless of whether the declaration will still be a pre-requisite for entry (since Friday it has not been an issue), security for NGOs will be of great concern. The IDF rules of engagement are arbitrarily applied, at best, and if the no-go rule for 'closed military zones' and 'sensitive areas' is to be enforced, we are unlikely to know exactly where we are allowed to go and where not. Therefore, we will have to learn by experience, and NGOs will get shot at more frequently. None has bullet proof vehicles, none has special license plates and NGOs tend to be working in high-risk areas, enclaves such as Mawasi, parts of north Gaza and Rafah.

Ben Gurion:

This week has seen an increase in the number of entry denials for AIDA member organizations at the airport (and also Allenby Bridge and Aqaba border crossing.). All cases have had to return home. The following are individual examples:

  • 13. May: 1 expatriate working for newly arrived French NGO. Denied entry this morning.
  • 12. May: Swedish national. 62 year old librarian. Never been to Israel. Working on an 8 day consultancy for Swedish NGO, funded by Sida. Detained and questioned overnight, deported this morning. Reason given: 1) MoI did not believe that she would go home after 8 days, 2) MoI did not believe that she was not a peace activist, 3) she works for a Christian organization (possible connection to Christian peace activist groups?).
  • 11.May: Dutch national. Working in OPT for an Italian NGO. Denied entry at Aqaba (she was initially in Jordan to re-new her B2). No reason given. Passport stamped ‘Entry Denied'. Had to fly back to Holland to get a new passport.
  • 11.May: 2 expatriates working for French NGO, funded by ECHO and with ECHO papers. Denied entry at Ben Gurion.
  • 10. May: Ford Foundation (*not AIDA member), Snr. Programme Officer (British citizen) denied entry at Ben Gurion.
  • 4. May: Oxfam GB Director received 1 month B2, having been out of the country to re-new her B2.
  • One US NGO Country Director has had to leave the country twice in weekly succession as each time he came back from Jordan (Allenby) he was given a 1 week B2. He has been unable to apply for a B1 because the MoI has been on strike. Currently he is without any visa.



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