Gaza Exiting Odyssey

Standing in the long rows, Nazmi Al-Masri was starting to get an idea of how grueling his journey out of his besieged Gaza homeland would be.

All he wished was that he, his wife and children reunite with the rest of their family in Sweden soon.

But problems were haunting him from the first step he took towards the Interior Ministry in Gaza to register his name to leave.

"I found queues of people standing on the windows of the travel gate in the Interior Ministry when I wanted to register to leave," Al-Masri, 55, told

But the step that was supposed to take few hours ended up taking long months as his name was included in endless waiting lists of people who want to exit Gaza.

When he finally got to register, Al-Masri found out that his passport had expired during the wrangling.

"I am sure that this will cause some problems with the border police in my distained country," said a worried Al-Masri.

Officials affirm that his dilemma is shared by thousands people who remain stranded as they attempt to leave the blockaded coastal enclave.

"The few days the Crossing intermittently opens aren’t enough to do the work regularly," Deputy Interior Minister Kamel Madi told IOL.

He noted that the most affected by the delays are students who lost educational grants or were forced to drop off because they could not leave Gaza on time.

"More than two hundred students either lost their offers or were obliged to abandon their courses in the universities abroad."

Israel has been closing the Gaza Strip’s exits to the outside world since Hamas movement was voted to power in 2006.

Egypt opens the Rafah border crossing every now and then for a very limited period of time to allow some people in and out of Gaza.

Back to Gaza

It took Al-Masri nearly five months to end his registration and passport procedures and head to the Rafah border crossing with his family.

He thought his troubles were over, but it was only the beginning of a new chapter of suffering.

"After too much time of waiting, I headed to the Crossing from the centre of the Gaza City at 4 am by bus and until 2 pm I was still waiting," Al-Masri said, noting the distance only takes 40 minutes by bus.

Once the Crossing opens its doors, the Palestinian travel officers start passing passengers from Gaza to Egypt, but they start working only when the Egyptian counterparts ask them to let the passengers out.

At sunset, Al-Masri and other passengers were still waiting at the gates looking at the Crossing from the Palestinian side because the Egyptian officers reported some "technical problems."

When Al-Masri’s bus was allowed to enter Rafah, it was 7.30 p.m.

"I passed the first phase of my crisis, but I see that the beginning of the other phase seems more difficult."

The elderly Palestinian had another trouble trying to finish procedures with the border police and the custom officers.

"It was too hard for me to finish dealing with different officers in the Crossing," he said as he sat to take his breath in the Egyptian travel hall.

"We spent much time waiting on the Palestinian side, and here there is a kind of (traffic congestion) inside the halls and alleyway."

But, Al-Masri and his family suffered another blow as they were told they can not pass, after all they had been through.

Officers told them they were supposed to finish some necessary arrangements with the Swedish embassy before leaving Gaza in order to facilitate his entry.

Now, Al-Masri would need another four or five months on the waiting list for those who want to leave Gaza in order to reach the Rafah Crossing once more.

"I didn’t know that my case needed the arrangements they explained," a frustrated Al-Masri said.

"I think the limited time given for us to leave through the Crossing is the reason behind all what happened to me."


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