Lebanon-Based Palestinian Refugee Enters U.S. after Airport Ordeal


A Palestinian student who was denied entry to the United States just days before he was scheduled to start classes at Harvard University has been admitted to the country.

Ismail Ajjawi was on campus as classes began Tuesday, the university confirmed.

"The last ten days have been difficult and anxiety filled, but we are most grateful for the thousands of messages of support and particularly the work of AMIDEAST," his family said, referring to the academic organization that provided their son a scholarship to attend Harvard. "We hope now that everyone can respect our and Ismail's privacy and he can now simply focus on settling into College and his important class work."

Ajjawi didn't respond to messages seeking comment and his father, Bassel, declined to elaborate beyond the written statement.

Ajjawi's lawyer, Albert Mokhiber, called his client's case a "classic sad tale with an exceptionally unique happy ending."

"Against all odds a Palestinian refugee who attended UNRWA schools in the camps of Lebanon, earns a full scholarship to Harvard, hits a road block, but is eventually granted entry to the U.S. to pursue his college dream," he said in a statement, referring to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees.

Ajjawi was denied entry Aug. 23 after spending eight hours in Boston Logan International Airport. He had been living in Lebanon.

The 17-year-old freshman said the denial had to do with politically oriented social media posts by friends. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said only that the decision to cancel Ajjawi's visa was based on information discovered during an inspection.

The agency on Tuesday said Ajjawi "overcame all grounds of inadmissibility" and was admitted into the country on a student visa. It declined to answer questions about why he was initially denied entry and how the case was resolved.

AMIDEAST, which offers scholarship for financially challenged Palestinian youths from Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem, said the U.S. Embassy in Beirut reviewed Ajjawi's case and reissued his visa.

"We are pleased that Ismail's Harvard dream will come true after all," said Theodore Kattouf, the organization's president and CEO, in a statement. "Ismail is a bright young man whose hard work, intelligence and drive enabled him to overcome the challenges that Palestinian refugee youth continue to face in order to earn a scholarship."

Comments 1
Thumb gebran_sons 1 month

Congratulations Ismail. You are a young bright individual with unique experience and sensitivity having lived in the miserable conditions of Palestinian camps. Despite all, the US is the cradle of freedom, democracy and opportunities; and Harvard the bastion of critical thinking and achievements. Immigrants to the US have created leading corporations such as Intel, Google and Tesla; and are managing others such as Microsoft and Uber. Hopefully, you’ll be another star seeking productive achievements and positive change so you help and lift your brothers in the camps; unlike those politicians who excel in blaming others and exploiting their people misery for own political interest.