Monday, 29 September 2014

Change of dates for part of journey out of London

Dear everyone who is involved in this visit


First  it is still going to happen but the dates of some parts are changing. The reason is visa craziness and explained below **.

Please don't be too disappointed - the boys will get Eid at home, Adam will see his brother who is going to be released from prison tonight - he was going to miss the celebration - there must be good sides to this story.

Of course we are really very disappointed to change the plans, not to see our friends tomorrow,  to have to reorganise a lot of things and to add a lot of cost to the visit...

between Monday 6th and Weds 15th October

New timetable follows.


Why the change? 

Visa craziness - Having to get  visas in such a difficult way is particularly hard for Palestinians. If you look at the first post in this blog, you can see the situation when we started. We got through that one and were given  an appointment for the boys for fingerprints in Ramallah so they could submit their visa applications.

But it is such a long and complex process. The passports went to Jordan where they are dealt with by the British Embassy in Amman. We expected to have them in time. We asked, if the time was tight, for the visa office in Amman to keep the passports so we could send a courier (as we have done before).

Today we sent someone to the Amman office to collect the passports - and discovered that they were put yesterday in a sealed diplomatic bag to Jerusalem  where they will be delivered tomorrow at the earliest - and apparently no way can they be got or that bag opened before that. 

So the passports can be collected only after the kids' flight has left Amman tomorrow morning at 6...So they cannot get that flight.
  We tried to change the flight from tomorrow to the day after, or the day after... but this is a whole group and there is not enough available room on the planes till Monday at the earliest - therefore we have added on some days at the end.

Partners out of London - this will affect your programme.  We will be in touch with you NOW to confirm all arrangements.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Meet some of the young people from London....

Hi, my name is Nasimur. Call me Nas and I'm really looking forward to seeing you!

My name is Zahra. I'm 17 years old. I'm studying law, photography and classical civilisation. I enjoy reading and music.

Hi, my name is Naima and I'm 16 years old. I'm currently studying maths, biology, chemistry and French. I'm looking forward to your visit and would like to be a doctor in the future.

My name is Alamin and next time I visit Palestine I will meet you in Abu Dis!!

Hello, my name is Aida. I'm 16 years old, studying all sciences except for physics. I am Egyptian and speak Arabic quite fluently.

Getting ready in London

This is a picture from a meeting at Calthorpe Project in London - getting ready for the visit

A pity we can't see everyone here... but soon you'll see us all.

Nervous nervous - hope this works!

The kids' visas have been dealt with but the passports didn't arrive on Friday - We couldn't raise an answer today (when the Jordan office was open but the Jerusalem one shut) - and we're not sure where they are! 

Our visitors are  meant to be travelling TOMORROW (late afternoon, so they can get a plane early on Tuesday morning) so tomorrow morning is the last chance...

We are hoping to be able to send a courier to get the passports if they are still in Jordan or to Jerusalem if they have reached there,so all is not yet lost if we can get an answer tomorrow, but it is definitely nerve-racking.....

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Come and meet the young people


Meet the boys visiting England soon...

انا اسمي قيص الشلالدة  انا طالب في مدرسة ابوديس الثانوية  عمري  15 سنة  انا اريد زيارت بريطانيا لكي اتعرف على ثقافتهم و 
 لكي ارى  مدنهم كيف تبدوا
My name is Qis Al Shalalda. I am a student at Abu Dis Boy's School. I am 15 years old and I want to visit England to see English culture and the cities.  

 انا اسمي صالح ابو هلال انا من مدرسة المعهد العربي انا عمري 16 سنة اريد زيارت بريطانيا  لكي ارى الاماكن المشهورة و منها بيج بين و  ملعب المانشستر
My name is Salh Abu Hlal. I am a student at the Arab Institute. I am 16 years old and I want to visit England to see the famous places such as Manchester Stadium and Big Ben. 

انا اسمي انس ابو هلال انا طالب المعهد العربي عمري 15 سنة اريد الذهاب الى بريطانيا لكي ارى اشياء جديدة و عالم جديد 
My name is Anas Abu Hlal. I am a student at the Arab Institute. I am 15 years old and I want to visit England to see new things and the new world. 

انا اسمي ادم حلبية انا طالب في مدرسة ابوديس الثانوية عمري 18 سنة اريد زيارت بريطانيا للتعرف على عالم جديد و لكي اتحدث 
 عن القضية الفلسطينية
My name is Adam Halabia. I am a student at Abu Dis Boy's School. I am 18 years old and I want to visit England to see a new world and speak about the Palestinian issue.

Anas Abu Hlal  انس ابوهلال  
Qis Al Shalalda قيص الشلالدة 

Salh Abu Hlal صالح ايو هلال
Adam Halabia ادم حلبية 
Adam and the CADFA volunteer, Marguerite.  

Preparing at Dar Assadaqa

Some of the visitors and CADFA volunteers working today at Dar Assadaqa

Friday, 26 September 2014

Last days before the visit

In Palestine the boys are preparing for the visit - with the help of people at Dar Assadaqa they are working on their presentations and wondering what they will find in Britain...

A bit worrying today because the passports are not back with the British visas in them.  - We are watching, hoping, ready to do what we can to get those passports back on time ... and get our visitors here!

In Britain, we are working very hard on the last-minute parts of the arrangements for the visit, for the events, on publicity and accommodation and transport and information... Visits like this are lots of work but we know it will be worth it.

Looking forward, not many days to go!

An article about the coming visit

Hey it doesn't mention this is a CADFA visit. But it's nice to see that it's hit the news.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The first place on the visit... Pendle...

Pendle is the name of the area round Pendle Hill in the north of England – about 50 km from Manchester United! There are several towns in Pendle – Nelson, Colne, Brierfield and Barnoldswick are the largest – with various industries, and there is some great countryside round here too. There are six high schools, many primary schools and a college. The population became much more mixed in the twentieth century and in particular Pendle has become home to many people of Pakistani origin. Pendle might not be the wealthiest part of the world, but its people are as welcoming and generous as anywhere.

بندل هو اسم المنطقة المحاذية لتله بندك الى الشمال من انجلترا تبعد عن مدينة مانشستر حوالي 50 كيلو متر هناك العديد من البلدات في منطقة بندل بيلسون وبريرفيلد وبيرنولدسويك وهي البلدة الأكبر كما وتوجد في منطقة بندل العديد من المواقع الصناعية وهي أيضاً تحتوي على مواقع طبيعية الخضراء المنتشرة حولها. هناك ستة مدارس ثانوية في بندل والعديد من المدارس الابتدائية والكليات. كما ويوجد فيها خليط من القوميات بين سكانها خاصة في العشرين عام الماضية حيث يسكن العديد من الباكستانيين. ليست بندل هي المنطقة الأغنى في العالم ولكن سكانها برحبون على الدوام بكل زوارها وهم كريمين جداً وودودون.

Children's visit timetable

Changing Places programme:   
 30th September

1st Oct  Weds
Induction in Camden - then travel to Pendle
 2nd Oct Thurs
School and community visits
 3rd Oct Fri
School and community visits
7pm PUBLIC EVENT at Brierfield Community Centre

 4th Oct Sat
 Meet the Pendle Mayor.
Outing in Pendle
Manchester  in afternoon   
7pm PUBLIC EVENT in Manchester: Subrosa Cafe,

5th Oct Sun
Day out in Chester – see the walls and the city
Lunch with the Mayor
Drama workshop
Travel to Northampton

6th  Oct Mon
Visit to town and local school.
Radio Northampton
7pm PUBLIC EVENT at Doddridge Centre    

7th Oct Tues 
Travel to London by train.    
A day of tourism – central London
 8th Oct Weds
London outing day: London Zoo
Evening in Camden Youth Clubs
Thurs 9th
Visits to Camden schools
Hackney afternoon
Fri 10th  
Visit to Camden schools
Visit to Emirates Stadium  .
Sobell Sports centre  
11th Oct
Camden and Regent’s Park Youth League
Buddy afternoon
7pm CADFA  fundraising meal: Hiba Express, Holborn

 12th Oct Sun
(travel day)
Project evaluation
Palestinians leave for home

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Abu Dis boys preparing

Thank you very much to the people who helped our group put in their visa applications (see below - the problem for all Palestinians at the moment is severe). They went to Ramallah on Wednesday, did fingerprints and gave in their applications, and we very much hope that they will be here on time.

Here's a picture of the boys (young men) from Abu Dis who will be joining the visit to London preparing pictures and presentations to bring with them, to tell people in the UK about their lives in Palestine. The picture was taken today in Dar Assadaqa, the community centre CADFA supports there, which is based in an old Palestinian house.

The group is going to include six school students - these four and two from Beit Leed village - and three men. All boys and men this time - why not? CADFA often hear the voices of women.

Hey Qais, Saleh, Anas and Adam (and everyone else in the group), we're looking forward to hearing what you have to tell us!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Children from Gaza

This visit includes only children from the West Bank. But the picture on the background is of young people from Gaza who were going to come on a CADFA visit last August. They were not able to get through the border crossing at Rafah and so they couldn't come. 

We will remember them throughout this visit, and we will remember all the children from Gaza. This includes children who were killed during the war of the summer, those who were injured, those who were orphaned, those whose schools were bombed, those who were made homeless, and everyone who is trapped until the borders are opened.

CADFA children's visit 2014

Our visit is going ahead even though we have no big funding (as we had for other CADFA visits in the past and hope to have again). We are really looking forward. 

Two weeks ahead of it and we have had so many obstacles to get past. Here is the story of the visa fingerprints.... For us, it came out OK as we were given special help and yesterday our visitors went to Ramallah to have their fingerprints taken for their visas. But it is not so easy for anyone else... anyone applying for a visa in the West Bank has to wait till the end of the year!!!! for their appointment. So we stand by what we said here....

Press statement AND Appeal for help* 10th September 2014

A new visa system is currently blocking CADFA Palestinian children’s visit to the UK due to take place in October. All visa applications from the West Bank seem currently blocked. This threatens the CADFA October visit, stops Palestinians coming to the UK, and underlines the discrimination of the Israeli occupation. It seems to mean that Israeli settler children from the West Bank can visit the UK but Palestinians can’t?!

CADFA, a Camden-based human rights charity, has been running annual children’s visits from Palestine to the UK since 2006. These visits bring Palestinian young people to meet young people from the UK to take part in exciting projects based on art, music, exploring the environment, drama. These are always very exciting and positive visits, well-received by the schools and youth groups that are involved.

The next CADFA Palestinian children's group are due to come to the UK on 1st October. The heart of these visits is always the Camden- Abu Dis link, which support the twinning links between several Camden schools and schools in Abu Dis in the Jerusalem suburb. In the UK plans for October are being put in place. These include visits to several Camden schools, the Camden and Regent’s Park Youth League and Camden Youth Council. Young people in Camden are due to hold a fundraising event towards the visit at the Calthorpe Project on Sunday 28th September.

This year, the visit has been organised with some other small groups that are making twinning links to Palestine: Pendle, Lancashire (linked to Beit Leed in Palestine), Northampton (linked to Al Bireh) and with a group in Chester that are considering making a new twinning link.

“You can’t imagine how much these children are looking forward to the visit,” said Abdul Wahab Sabbah who is organising the visit from the Abu Dis end. “Our children don’t get the chance to travel, they are stuck between the Israeli Separation, the settlements and the checkpoints.  The atmosphere here all summer has been the horrors of the war in Gaza. It has made a real difference to young people who have been before to see something difference. This is the chance of a lifetime for these children.”

CADFA’s director, Nandita Dowson, says: “We are well used to long and complicated visa applications – In the recent past, it has usually taken three weeks to get a visa – applications go to Jerusalem without the applicants, who can’t get there; they travelled to Ramallah to do fingerprints and then their passports travelled via Amman, Jordan. It was a long system but we allowed time and the exchange visits were definitely worth it.”

However this year, there is a real question about whether the young people’s group can travel. They are currently blocked from even applying for visas as there are no appointments available in Ramallah for fingerprints to be  taken. “We have been checking constantly for available appointments,” says Nandita, “But at the moment the only appointments available in Ramallah for the next few months are on 25th December, Christmas Day!!”

Under the current system, it is now not possible to submit an application without having made an appointment. So the CADFA children’s group are busy preparing for the visit of their lives – but to date, they have not been able to submit their applications.

The Visa Section in the British Embassy in Amman, Jordan have suggested taking the children to Amman, Jordan, where there are appointments available for finger prints. But Amman is in a foreign country, and the process cannot be done in a single day. The children would have to wait for two days at best before getting the visas. CADFA are not sure that we can take the children off school for an extra two or three days to apply for a visa or that it is fair to ask them to go and stay in a foreign country or for their families to pay for hotel expenses for this purpose: none of us in the UK would think that reasonable when we apply for a visa for a short visit to another country!

CADFA are appealing for help to short-cut this long loop, let the children do their finger prints in their own country and on time to join the exchange. This will save the visit for the Palestinian kids and the UK children who are looking forward to seeing them.

There are more general questions and a wider issue. There is room apparently in Amman, so why are there no available appointments in Ramallah?  Blocked from Jerusalem, it seems that all the people of the West Bank are effectively blocked from applying for British visas for months!

How massively unfair this is. How different the system would be if they were Israeli settlers, including settlers living on Abu Dis land. Israelis don’t need a visa – they can use the local airport – they could decide to travel today and be with us tomorrow.

We are told that in Europe, human rights and fundamental freedoms are important. The basis of human rights is that they apply to everyone: there should be no discrimination against people on grounds of race or ethnic background.

But in its visa rules for the Middle East, the UK system appears to underline the built-in discrimination of the Israeli occupation. Already the Palestinian children are growing up in an apartheid system where Israeli settlers can build, Palestinians can’t; Israeli settlers use one road, Palestinians use another; Israeli settlers use civil courts, Palestinians are subjected to military courts... and now, Israeli children can visit UK children, and Palestinian children can’t?