UNRWA: Harvard-bound Ismail Ajjawi, turned back at US airport, an inspiration to fellow students

JERUSALEM, Seventeen-year-old Palestine refugee, Ismail Ajjawi, who was admitted to the Harvard University incoming freshman class of 2023 and issued a visa to the United States and was denied entry to the country when he arrived at Boston Logan International Airport on August 23, is an inspiration to fellow refugee students, said the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Ajjawi graduated this spring from the UNRWA-run Deir Yassin High School in El Buss refugee camp, south of Tyre, Lebanon, one of 12 Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon where UNRWA provides services. He achieved the highest score in the life science stream of the Official Lebanese Baccalaureate exams in the south region and eighth highest in all of Lebanon thus earning a scholarship from AMIDEAST to study at Harvard.

Ajjawi described that his school was surrounded by the camp, and as such it, Suffers from many difficulties, the most important being the housing density that leads to the construction of houses very close to each other. In this atmosphere, it is really difficult for students to concentrate on their studies. There are a ed number of scholarships [after high school] and each year the amount is reduced. A large proportion of students are unable to study. I advise all my classmates to study hard and maintain their studies, so that they can achieve their dreams as I have been able to achieve mine.

Ismail Ajjawi is obviously an extremely talented and determined student and young man, said Caroline Pontefract, the UNRWA Director of Education, who, despite all odds, has gained a place in one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Ismail wants to study physical and chemical biology towards a career medicine which he had always dreamed of. As such, he is a beacon of hope for hundreds of thousands of UNRWA students and representative of what UNRWA strives to achieve through its education program: to realize the potential of every student and ensure that they acquire the values and principles that underpin the program and UNRWA as a UN Agency.

US immigration officials denied entry to Ajjawi supposedly due to content that his friends posted on social media. He was detained in the airport, harassed and berated by immigration officials, then ordered to hand over all of his electronics. After going through his phone and computer for hours, officers returned to the room in which Ajjawi was being held and began screaming and yelling at him. They then proceeded to inform him that his visa was being revoked due to posts by his friends on social media that opposed the policies of the administration of US President Donald Trump.

UNRWA, which educates 530,000 Palestine refugee children at 709 elementary and preparatory schools across its five fields of operations and employs over 22,000 educational staff, the majority of whom are Palestine refugees, as teachers, said it supports Ismail and all Palestine refugees who strive, against all odds, to achieve their full potential through higher education.

A team of lawyers are currently working on overturning the US immigration decision and allow Ismail into the country to attend Harvard University.

Source: Palestinian News and Info Agency