Don’t all citizens have an equal right to return to Australia from the war zone in Gaza?

October 18, 2023
Khaled Ghannam (right) addressing an emergency meeting about Israel's war on Gaza. Photo: Peter Boyle

The federal government has secured the evacuation of Israeli-Australians from five-star hotels to fly to Dubai and then to Australian airports. It has ensured extensive media coverage reassuring Israeli families from the first hours of the war until they arrive back.

Meanwhile in Ramallah, Palestine, the Australian diplomatic mission has announced that it is trying to secure buses to transport Palestinian-Australians to the Jordanian border at their own expense. Yet, this has not happened. Every day the diplomatic mission gives a new date for the buses to depart.

The mission also refuses to intervene to secure the arrival of Palestinian-Australians from across the West Bank to Ramallah, knowing that the Israeli occupation army is closing the roads. These people cannot reach Ramallah without prior coordination with Israeli authorities.

We have learned that there are Palestinian-Australians who, after two days, were forced to return to their areas because the Australian diplomatic mission refused to cover the costs of their hotel accommodation or set a date for buses to depart for the Jordanian border.

The greatest tragedy is in the Gaza Strip, where we lost contact with more than 10 Palestinian-Australian families who had received a message from the Australian diplomatic mission in Ramallah urging them to leave.

I have gathered this information mostly from members of the Palestinian community in Australia. There has been very little media on this, the exception being the Guardian Australia which reported on October 17: “Palestinian Australians in the West Bank who fear a surge in violence have raised concerns over the Australian government’s efforts to help them escape the region, after rescue buses to Jordan were cancelled.”

Elias Visontay added that in addition to logistical issues they face traveling between Israeli, Palestinian and jointly-controlled areas of the West Bank at short notice, “citizens registered for the buses have told Guardian Australia that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade [DFAT] has not provided them with official papers or certificates to guarantee them passage through various checkpoints on their way to Ramallah”.

The Guardian reported that some of those wanting to access the Australian government-coordinated buses to Jordan have raised concerns about reaching Ramallah in light of the increase in Israeli settler violence towards Palestinians in the West Bank since the outbreak of war.

“The Palestinian health ministry has said that 54 people, including children, had been killed and more than 1,100 injured in the West Bank since Hamas’s attack.”

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