Two Gaza runners, Nader Al Massri and Sami Nateel have been denied a visa by the British Immigration authorities to attend a Derry Marathon, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has revealed. The Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (I.P.S.C.) has branded the decision “inexplicable”.
“We are hugely disappointed and angered at this decision. There was a large group of Palestinians who came to the Derry marathon last year and it was a massive success so we find it inexplicable that the immigration service would deny them the right to travel this year,” said Derry I.P.S.C. spokesperson, Catherine Hutton.
Sinn Fein MLA, Raymond McCartney, stated that the deputy First Minister is calling on the immigration service to overturn the decision. “Martin McGuinness’s office has been in contact with British Government officials today to protest at this decision,” he commented.
“We all remember the color and joy which the Palestinians brought to the Derry marathon last year. They received a fantastic welcome which they hugely appreciated and the organizers deserve great credit for that and for inviting Nader and Sami to come over this year so it seems ludicrous to now say that their compatriots can’t make the same trip,” said McGuinness.
Dozens of runners from the Gaza Strip were denied permits by the Israeli authorities to attend the Bethlehem Marathon in April this year. Palestinian athletes face increasing restrictions. FIFA has asked Israel to reconsider imposing such restrictions to avoid being kicked out from the international sports body.
(Derry Journal, PC)