AMES students on year abroad interrogated and deported from Israel

Noella Chye 23 October 2017

The University of Cambridge Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies has banned students from taking a year abroad to study in Palestinian territories following a series of incidents in which students were subjected to brutal interrogation and deportation by Israeli security after admitting to studying in Palestine.

This year, five students of Arabic, four female and one male, were due to spend eight months in Palestine to undertake an Arabic language course at Birzeit University, in Ramallah, which is located in the West Bank. Yet in order to get there, travellers must either fly to Tel-Aviv and travel by road, or fly to Jordan and navigate an Israeli-controlled border crossing, Evening Standard reports.

Upon landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, in Tel-Aviv, the students faced interrogation, and for some, deportation.

"I found out that a number of students, coming from different universities around the world, had been kicked out of Israel because they had admitted to studying in Palestine," says Cleodie Rickard, 21, who was deported to Luton Airport after a six-hour interrogation and overnight stay in a detention centre earlier this year, Evening Standard reports.

She added, "… once they realised I might be spending time in the West Bank their whole approach to me just flipped."

A spokesman for the University of Cambridge told the Evening Standard: "Whilst we do not ban independent travel to, or study in, the Palestinian territories, students cannot choose to spend their Year Abroad in the West Bank for the time being due to recent difficulties faced by students in securing visa renewals from the Israeli authorities. 

"This is regrettable but our first duty is to ensure that students are able to complete their year abroad in an Arabic-speaking region before commencing their final year of study at the University of Cambridge."