Typically, an adult in Gaza must pay a bribe of $3,000 to get permission from Egypt to cross the border, two Palestinian brokers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Al-Jazeera. The brokers said that they took a 20 percent cut of the bribe, sending 80 percent to the Egyptian soldier or officer who coordinated the travel.
Sometimes, Egyptian officers put the names of Palestinians on a blacklist, declaring them to be a “security threat”, both brokers said. The list forbids entrance to Egypt for those whose names are on it, but a $10,000 payment can have it removed.
The brokers added that occasionally, the Egyptians want bribes paid in goods, not cash.
“Sometimes, they want iPhones or even gold,” said one of the brokers, known in Gaza as the “King of the Border” for his ability to get almost anyone into Egypt.
During a two-hour interview at his Gaza City office, this broker received six phone calls from people asking him for help getting into Egypt
The willingness to pay such high fees to leave Gaza may reflect residents’ desperation to escape the coastal enclave, which has endured three major Israeli military operations since 2008, leaving the most densely populated place on earth in ruins.
Gaza’s infrastructure is so damaged that a United Nations report last year predicted that, if current trends persist, the enclave would become “uninhabitable” by 2020.
There are about 30,000 cases of people in Gaza needing to urgently travel abroad for humanitarian reasons, many in order to obtain medical care, Gisha spokesperson Shai Grunberg told Al Jazeera.
Allegations of corruption at the Egyptian border crossing are nothing new.