10.4 C
New York

Evil people smugglers made me stump up £4,000 to escape war-ravaged Gaza – it’s sick they are profiting from our misery – The Sun

Published:

A GREEDY Egyptian company has drastically hiked up the price of escaping war-ravaged Gaza since fighting began five months ago.

One weary Palestinian, 25-year-old Ayman, was forced to pay £4,000 for permission to leave his home city and begin a new life in Egypt.

Ayman, 25, not pictured, says sharing an image of him may be harmful 'from a security standpoint' as he could be deported from Egypt and returned to Gaza

18

Ayman, 25, not pictured, says sharing an image of him may be harmful ‘from a security standpoint’ as he could be deported from Egypt and returned to GazaCredit: Getty
Ayman's family home in the north of the Gaza Strip has been destroyed by bombing

18

Ayman’s family home in the north of the Gaza Strip has been destroyed by bombingCredit: SUPPLIED/Ayman
Displaced Palestinians walk near the Palestinian-Egyptian border in the Rafah refugee camp

18

Displaced Palestinians walk near the Palestinian-Egyptian border in the Rafah refugee campCredit: EPA

On March 16, after scraping the funds together and waiting anxiously for 23 days to be added to a “departure list”, Ayman and about 300 others were finally allowed to leave Gaza.

The group travelled by bus from Palestine to Egypt, where they waited five hours at the border crossing for their documents to be checked, then split into smaller groups to go into Egypt.

Ayman called Gaza home his entire life.

He worked in the city as a graphic designer and, until two weeks ago, had never left.

But in recent months, after his home in the north of the Gaza Strip was bombed out and he had to move into a tent with minimal access to food and water, he realised he had “no other choice” but to flee.

Before the war, several companies would have been able to facilitate Ayman’s travel from Gaza to Egypt for the price of about £300.

There is now just one company – Egyptian firm Hala – that is able to coordinate Palestinians’ escape.

One woman, named Lamia, told The Sun that she paid for her elderly father to leave Gaza for Egypt as he lost his leg in the war and needed treatment and protection.

She said: “The Egyptian people in border every day they ask for more money as more people want to leave so they taking advantage of us and of the situation.”

Lamia continued: “At the beginning of the war used to be $7,000 (£5,500) per person then the second month $10,000 (£8,000) and last update from 10 days ago they take $13,000 (£10,000), depends of how many people want to leave and nowadays people want to leave so they take advantage of that and make it even harder and ask for more money.”

Moment aid airdrop ‘KILLS five in Gaza’ after parachute malfunctions sending food airdrop plunging into crowd

She said she and her family, most of whom are still stuck in Gaza, used to live in a “good house” but lost it amid fighting so now live in a tent.

Lamia added: “I hardly had food sometimes I eat cat or animal food, sometimes I got no food for week.

“I hardly got internet connection and I struggle to get one as I need to wait more than five hours to charge my phone using car battery.”

Both Lamia, on her father’s behalf, and Ayman crowdsourced the money needed to escape Gaza from international donors.

Ayman is one of hundreds of Palestinians who are fleeing the city via Hala every day, having reached the “maximum capacity” of what he can endure.

He was 10 years old when the first war of his short life – the Gaza War, also known as the Gaza Massacre – broke out in 2008.

Some 1,400 Palestinians, including 300 children, were killed in just 22 days of bloody fighting.

Another two wars erupted in his beloved city before last year, when he found himself in the midst of one of the fiercest the world has ever witnessed.

On October 7, Hamas terrorists launched a surprise attack on southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies, and taking more than 250 hostage.

Israel has since bombarded the Strip with relentless strikes by air, sea, and land.

It was definitely a difficult decision [to leave], but I had no other choice

AymanGaza resident

The constant bombing left Ayman’s home in pieces and he and his family were forced to relocate from the north to the south of the Strip to live in a tent in Rafah.

He told The Sun: “Life in a tent is very difficult, it does not have the minimum necessities for life, and life in Rafah is also difficult.

“The prices of products in the market were very high due to the scarcity of goods. We did not receive aid and nothing reached us.

“Even the tent we built with our own money.”

Ayman said he tried to persevere through the harsh conditions but reached his “maximum capacity” several months into his fifth war.

No one, including him, expected the conflict to last as long as it has.

Without access to affordable – or sometimes any – food and water, and with all of “the essentials of life” – such as schools and hospitals – in ruins, he realised he had to leave Gaza and his family.

He said: “It was definitely a difficult decision [to leave], but I had no other choice.”

Before the war, it might have taken Ayman weeks or months to be allowed into Egypt.

Or he could have paid £300 to one of several companies to travel in a matter of days.

Many GoFundMe campaigns have been created to help Gaza residents escape

18

Many GoFundMe campaigns have been created to help Gaza residents escapeCredit: GoFundMe
Booking travel to Egypt via Hala's website is 'closed until the current lists are completed'

18

Booking travel to Egypt via Hala’s website is ‘closed until the current lists are completed’
Each evening, Hala reveals the names of the passengers it will take from Gaza to Cairo via the Rafah land crossing the following day

18

Each evening, Hala reveals the names of the passengers it will take from Gaza to Cairo via the Rafah land crossing the following day
Hala's office at Organi Group headquarters in Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt

18

Hala’s office at Organi Group headquarters in Nasr City, Cairo, EgyptCredit: Google

Normal cross-border travel was suspended when the Hamas-Israel war began and Egypt now only officially allows foreign nationals and injured evacuees to leave Gaza.

But Hala is still accepting payments for permission to leave the Strip.

It is the only way Palestinians can leave Gaza, unless they are evacuated for medical reasons.

A SkyNews investigation found that it was possible to travel with Hala for $350 (£300) before the war, but the company has since increased its prices 14-fold to $5,000 (£4,000).

Based on Hala’s fares and the amount of names that show on its daily departure lists, the company could be making more than $1million (£858,000) in a single day.

Ayman told The Sun that Hala charged him $5,000 (£4,000) for permission to travel from Gaza to Egypt.

An associate of his in Egypt would have had to register his name with the company at Hala’s office in Nasr City, Cairo and prove that they have a relationship. Payment was cash-only.

Ayman said: “The price is fixed and registration is complicated, as you must have a first or second relative in Egypt to be able to register.

“Everyday, about 300 people travel from Gaza in coordination with Hala Company.”

The Sun has contacted Hala for comment.

Displaced Palestinians live in makeshift tents in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza

18

Displaced Palestinians live in makeshift tents in the Rafah refugee camp in southern GazaCredit: Alamy
People wade through the debris of a building that collapsed in the Rafah refugee camp after an Israeli air strike

18

People wade through the debris of a building that collapsed in the Rafah refugee camp after an Israeli air strikeCredit: AFP
An overnight Israeli bombardment destroyed tents at the Rafah refugee camp

18

An overnight Israeli bombardment destroyed tents at the Rafah refugee campCredit: Rex

Lamia told The Sun that “Egyptian people” at the border continue to increase the price of fleeing as they know there are many Palestinians who want to leave the besieged enclave and will pay the price set.

She said: “And this only to cross the border, not even for living or anything else.

“So we will pay all the money to them. There are people at the Egyptian border take money to put the people who want to leave names so they give them something called ‘tasreh’ and this to enter the Egyptian land.”

Ayman registered with Hala on February 22 and was added to the “departure list” on March 15, allowing him the evening to prepare for travel on March 16.

The only belongings he was able to take with him were his laptop, necessary for him to continue his work as a graphic designer, and some clothes.

On the day of travel, he and about 300 other passengers were taken by bus from the Palestinian crossing point to the Egyptian crossing point, where they had to wait for security checks to be completed.

It took five hours for their personal information to be verified.

Ayman said: “After that, we left in small buses. Each bus could accommodate eight people.

“The road was easy and we did not face any security problems from the police.”

I don’t think any human in this world deserves to endure such misery or has the capacity to live through it

Ayman, 25Gaza resident

He travelled six hours from the Egyptian crossing point to Nasr City in Cairo, where his friend was waiting for him.

Ayman is now in Alexandria but hopes to soon travel to Europe as he does not have residency in Egypt and will be fined each day he stays.

He said: “All my life I have lived in Gaza. This is the first time I have left. Living conditions in Gaza have become non-existent.

“I left by myself because my family does not want to leave. I know that it may be a selfish decision, but I want to settle down and get some rest after more than 150 days of war.”

His family cannot leave Gaza as the cost is too high, but they also remain hopeful that there might soon be a ceasefire.

Before leaving, Ayman said: “I don’t think any human in this world deserves to endure such misery or has the capacity to live through it.

“All I want is to leave, seize the opportunity for a better life, and start anew.

“Here, there are no guarantees for your life, safety, or your future.”

Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said the government “absolutely” did not condone Hala charging Palestinians $5,000 (£4,000) to leave the Strip.

He told Sky News: “We will take whatever measures we need so as to restrict it and eliminate it totally.

“There should be no advantage taken out of this situation for monetary gain.”

The government, Shoukry said, is “looking into it and will take action vis-a-vis anyone who has been implicated in such activities”.

Ayman and his family were forced to relocate to the south of the Strip

18

Ayman and his family were forced to relocate to the south of the StripCredit: SUPPLIED/Ayman
Ayman said living conditions in Gaza became 'non-existent'

18

Ayman said living conditions in Gaza became ‘non-existent’Credit: SUPPLIED/Ayman
The graphic designer's family is holding onto hope that a ceasefire may be called

18

The graphic designer’s family is holding onto hope that a ceasefire may be calledCredit: SUPPLIED/Ayman
Ayman arrives in Egypt on March 16

18

Ayman arrives in Egypt on March 16Credit: Ayman
Ayman is staying with a friend in Alexandria

18

Ayman is staying with a friend in AlexandriaCredit: Ayman
A man inspects his home after an Israeli air strike at Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah

18

A man inspects his home after an Israeli air strike at Al-Najjar Hospital in RafahCredit: EPA
Residential buildings are destroyed by Israeli air strikes in Khan Yunis

18

Residential buildings are destroyed by Israeli air strikes in Khan YunisCredit: Getty
People gather around a destroyed building following Israeli bombing on Rafah

18

People gather around a destroyed building following Israeli bombing on RafahCredit: AFP

Related articles

Recent articles

spot_img