A few months ago, we were delighted to report that one of our dedicated vet student volunteers, Wasseem Tahboub, had been accepted to attend a course run by the UK charity, Dogs Trust, scheduled for September in London. The course is designed to train international animal welfare workers in rescue and rehabilitation of dogs and Wasseem hoped to run a series of presentations on his return to Palestine so that his peers at Al Najah Vet School could also benefit from what he had learned.
Waseem is an exemplary student, who has recently been elected Animal Welfare Committee Chairman for the International Veterinary Student Association (IVSA) and is due to complete his studies to become a qualified vet in the coming academic year. He has been a dedicated volunteer for PAL for over a year and PAL was delighted to be able to support him in his application for the important course; which would give him vital skills to support the charity’s upcoming stray dog spay and neuter programme in the West Bank.
Sadly, neither Wasseem nor his fellow students will benefit from the training course as his visa application was refused last week and he has been denied entry into the UK. The rejection stated that the UK authorities were not convinced that Wasseem intended to return to Palestine at the end of the course. This is despite the fact PAL and the Dogs Trust had both offered letters of recommendation and a commitment to finance the trip, and despite the fact that he is due to start his final year of professional training in the coming months. Neither Wassem nor the two organisations supporting his application were contacted to offer further clarification and there is no right to appeal the decision.
Said Head of International Relations for PAL, Liz Tyson:
“Our Palestinian team experiences restrictions on freedom of movement on a daily basis and so this setback will not impact on their ground-breaking work for animals in the West Bank in the long term – our colleagues are adept at overcoming these obstacles and moving forward. But this does not mean that we are not disappointed that such a promising young colleague has been arbitrarily denied access to take up an opportunity for professional development which would have had such a positive impact upon animal welfare in the occupied territories. We remain extremely proud of Wasseem’s achievements and grateful for the Dogs Trust for offering him a place on the course”.
This is not the first time that team members have been denied access to travel when working to develop the work of PAL in the international community and, sadly, it is unlikely to be the last. The fact that these obstacles continue to hamper the work of the organisation, and are specific to Palestinians, highlights the need to work to support the development of equal human rights at the same time as tackling animal rights issues.