With almost 45% of the Gaza population unemployed and 75% living in poverty, Haya and her family were not able to provide for her daughter’s basic needs and therefore was forced to relinquish her custody rights with an agreement for visitation every week.
With the COVID-19 outbreak, the first emergency status was declared in Gaza in March 2020, when cases were discovered inside quarantine centres. Most public service facilities were closed, including Family courts, until 22 April 2020. This has affected hundreds of visitation and custody cases, including Haya’s.
“I have not seen my daughter since 25 May 2020. After the first emergency status was declared, the situation got better as cases discovered were quarantined. I was able to submit an urgent visitation in May to spend Eid Al-Fitr with her. I was able to see her for only two hours,” Haya said in tears.
The grandfather refused sending the little girl to Haya’s place every week. The lawyer notified the Family court in Gaza, and for logistical reasons, that court should notify the Family court nearest to the house, which usually takes additional time. As the grandfather kept postponing, the lawyer submitted a request to the judicial police to enforce the mother’s visitation right.
When that was about to happen, the second emergency status was declared in Gaza and a lockdown was imposed all over the Strip on 25 August 2020. Police, including judicial ones, were executing lockdown safety measures, and courts were closed; postponing all enforcement orders, with the fear of outbreak with the transfer of children from one area to another.
“It kills me every time I hear the word COVID. It did not only impact our health but the family’s well-being as a whole by linking it to my daughter’s presence with us. Now as courts are reopening, I hope I can see her again soon to let her know that I am back at school to complete my Tawjihi high school exam. I will do my best to finish university and find a job to have her back. I miss her so much,” Haya concluded.
Funded by the Governments of the Netherlands, Sweden and Spain, the Sawasya II Joint Programme provided legal aid services including for COVID-19 response, to over 21,000 Palestinians (72% women and girls) in 2020 alone.