Palestinian Harvard student barred from US is allowed to enter

Students walk near the Widener Library at Harvard University.
Students walk near the Widener Library at Harvard University.PHOTO: AP

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Ismail Ajjawi, a Palestinian student denied entry to the United States last month at the airport in Boston, was allowed to enter the country on Monday (Sept 2) and was at Harvard in time for the beginning of classes, according to Amideast, the group that sponsored him.

Amideast said the US Embassy in Beirut had reviewed Ajjawi's case and reissued a visa.

Harvard officials confirmed Ajjawi was on campus.

Ajjawi, 17, landed at Logan International Airport in Boston on Aug 23 and was turned back after immigration officials objected to his friends' social media posts, he told The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper.

Ajjawi, who lives in Tyre, Lebanon, had received a visa before travelling.

The episode prompted a furore among free-speech advocates.

"Many individuals and institutions played a hand in this outcome," Amideast, a US nonprofit cultural exchange and education programme founded in 1951, said.

The organisation thanked Larry Bacow, president of Harvard, as well as embassy officials.

Ajjawi has said he wants to become a doctor.


In the account given to The Crimson, Ajjawi said his phone and laptop were searched at the airport and that an agent had yelled at him and "said she found people posting political points of view that oppose the US on my friend list."

He told the agent he should not be held responsible for other peoples' posts, the statement said.

Unexpected denials and long delays have become increasingly common for international students and scholars seeking visas, raising concerns among college officials who see a threat to the diversity and enrichment of their campuses, and causing anxiety for students who may have spent years preparing to study in the United States - only to have their hopes dashed.

After Ajjawi was sent back, a spokesman for the State Department said international students were a priority and that the government was "committed to providing the highest quality service to legitimate travellers."

The department said the majority of international students received a visa upon application: 74 per cent of student visa applications and 92.5 per cent of exchange visitor visa applications were approved in fiscal year 2018.