Canadian student denied entry into Israel, detained

Sarah Ann-Marie Meakes awaits hearing after being taken into custody at B-G Airport, despite approval for visa, enrollment at Haifa University.

Police at Ben Gurion Airport 311 (R) (photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
Police at Ben Gurion Airport 311 (R)
(photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
A Canadian woman who was accepted to study at an Israeli university – and even approved for a student visa by the Israeli consulate in her country – was denied entry into the country on Sunday and incarcerated at Ben-Gurion Airport, where her A2 student visa was declared void, a lawyer for the woman told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Sarah Ann-Marie Meakes, 26, who has already paid tuition fees to study Hebrew at Haifa University, was taken into custody as she tried to enter Israel and will face an emergency hearing at the Petah Tikva District Court on Tuesday morning.
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Meakes’s attorney Michael Decker, from the Jerusalem firm Yehuda Raveh & Co.
Law Offices, told the Post that the student had already spent one night in detention at the airport, and it was still unclear exactly why she had been refused entry.
He admitted, however, that Meakes had been deported from Israel just over a year ago after her entry visa had expired, but added that, as her lawyer, he believed the matter had in fact been sorted out.
“We were in touch with the Interior Ministry after the deportation and we were told that if Sarah requested to visit again with a serious reason to come here, such as to study, then she would be allowed to come back in without a problem,” said Decker.
In Canada, Meakes applied for courses at Haifa University via the Israeli consulate and filled out all the necessary paperwork.
Ahead of her year-long visit to Israel, Decker said that Meakes decided to renew her Canadian passport, which had the deportation stamp in it, because it was close to expiring.
“She had only a year left on the passport, and because she was going to be gone for a year, she decided to renew it,” said the lawyer, adding that this was the main reason she updated the document.
He showed the Post a letter from the Interior Ministry suggesting that if Meakes was returning for study purposes, the fact she was deported could be overlooked.
“There really is no explanation for this. It is total injustice,” said Rania Sayegh, a good friend of Meakes, who visited her in detention on Monday.
“She was already given the visa; it is stamped on her passport.
But they have accused her of lying and having other reasons for coming here.”
Sayegh told the Post that Meakes has been in love with the Hebrew language since she was a child and was interested in studying Hebrew and other academic courses in Haifa.
“She has been crying all night.
This is very traumatic for her because it reminds her of what happened to her last year,” said Sayegh.
“This is the second time this has happened to her, but we are going to court tomorrow and we are feeling positive that we will see justice.”
While Meakes was waiting for her court hearing, Sabene Hadad, spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority, which authorizes citizenship and monitors entry into the country, pointed out that she had indeed been previously deported for overstaying an entry visa last year.
According to Hadad, it was up to Meakes to point this out to the Israeli consulate in Canada, but instead she “decided to change her passport and hide the fact that she had been forced out of the country.”
“Based on that fact, the decision was made not to allow her into Israel, unless the courts decide differently,” said Hadad.
The whole situation is absurd, said Decker.
“She was asked to fill out forms at the consulate to apply for university here, but she was never asked if she’d ever been deported,” he pointed out. “We are in the 21st century – surely there is a system or a network that would alert the authorities in Canada to the fact that she had been deported, or that there was a problem with her entry requirements.”
He added, “I believed that the case had been settled and all restrictions on her returning had ended at the end of 2010.”
A spokesman for Haifa University confirmed that Meakes was registered to start a course in Hebrew at the institution and had paid her course fees.
“However, we have not been made aware of any problems in her status,” said the spokesman.