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"Nothing more dehumanizing": A Palestinian account of crossing borders

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Life Marginalized Groups Basic Rights

Tuesday 3 January 202306:58 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

“أكثر مرة شعرت بالإهانة هُنا“... فلسطينيون على جسر الملك حسين

Palestinians living in territories occupied by Israel in 1967, can only travel by land through two crossings; the Rafah Border Crossing in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Egyptian administration, and the King Hussein Bridge (Allenby) Border Crossing, which is under the control of the Jordanian side in partnership with the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian side — all in a bid to implement policies towards travelers that would all but increase their suffering while traveling.

Many Palestinian residents of the West Bank were shocked last August by the crowding of the King Hussein Bridge in the crossing point towards Jordan, and by the humiliation that a number of travelers, including the elderly and even the sick, were later subjected to, according to several reports. This prompted the need for bribes to be given to workers at the Jordanian crossing in order to facilitate procedures, as confirmed by sources to Raseef22.

Iman (pseudonym), a young woman in her thirties, found herself forced to pay in order to facilitate her entry into the West Bank after waiting 3 hours in the VIP section. She only needed a few hours to pass the crossing from Jordan to the Palestinian and Israeli side, but the strange thing is that after the bridge was closed down on Friday with her arrival, and the travelers were informed of this, a worker at the crossing came to call the VIP section to follow him in order to facilitate the procedures and let them pass.

Iman had to go to the section that was crowded with people, but the travelers were subjected to many indignities and insults, with any Palestinian with a Palestinian Authority passport being refused entry, while tourists were allowed to enter normally. She marveled at that moment at how the management of the crossing and the security personnel were directing people to the VIP section, in an act that clearly violates the law.

Iman tells Raseef22, "The treatment was absolutely inhumane. They told us that the bridge was closed hours before its closing time, and people accordingly slept on the bridge so that they could cross when it opened the next day, but they were only letting foreigners in. There was a moment when a young lady told them there was a death in her family, and that she needed to enter as soon as possible, only to be shocked by the security personnel screaming at her that ‘Everyone on the bridge has a death!’.”

Elderly men and women were also yelled at in front of Iman, even in the case of an old woman who was accompanied by her grandchildren, where security allowed the grandchildren to enter without their grandmother since they do not carry a Palestinian ID like she did. She also saw how some workers at the crossing who work in transportation and assist travelers, would receive 10 Jordanian dinars ($14) in exchange for helping them get inside without having to pass through security personnel, asserting that there’s a prior agreement between the workers and security for this to take place.

Elderly men and women were yelled at, even in the case of an old woman who was accompanied by her grandchildren, where security allowed the grandchildren to enter without their grandmother since they do not carry a Palestinian ID like she does

Inside the VIP hall, Iman found many people standing and waiting in line. It was not much different from the main large hall, as there was a long queue to register, even though they were later told that it was not possible to register, which shocked her and everyone who was present. She then proceeded to witness how a security man received 20 Jordanian dinars with each passport. He would then leave and return with an entry stamp, leaving each Palestinian having to pay an amount of $110 dollars for the VIP service in addition to 20 Jordanian dinars just to be able to cross.

She adds, "He is the same security man who received 20 dinars from each traveler. At first, he was telling us that entry was not allowed and that we had to wait. This method encouraged many workers who were assisting us to ask for bribes in order to facilitate our entry and help us. I paid 5 dinars, then another 10.”

Iman goes on to say, “The saddest thing about all this is that the Israeli crossing is running smoothly and things are going easily there.”

Many spoke of the inappropriate procedures taking place there via social media at the time, especially from some workers who told them that they were on their own. They had asked them to make sure that their bags were with them, and that they must return to the Jordanian side of the crossing despite having already passed to the Palestinian side, as happened with Um Adham, 38, who was accompanied by three of her children on her trip to visit her sick mother in the Zarqa camp in Jordan. Um Adham had not been able to pay for the VIP service to facilitate her travels, especially since her youngest, a four-year-old girl, was sick and coughing in the sweltering weather of August.

Um Adham tells Raseef22, "Since my adolescence, I have been traveling across this bridge. The most time I felt humiliated and dehumanized was here, and this time it was bad. Some even advised me to pay to make my entry easy, but when I told them that I do not have the money, they responded with: ‘In this case, may God help you’.”

"Since adolescence, I've been traveling across this bridge. This was the most I felt humiliated and dehumanized. Some even advised me to pay to make my entry easy, but when I said I do not have the money, they responded with: ‘In this case, may God help you’.”

35-year-old Wassim (pseudonym) used to travel between Jordan and the West Bank several times a year, by virtue of his work, but he sees that the new procedures in recent years have intensified and became extremely complicated and expensive. This has created a black market just so a person can secure their turn in the registration queue to travel and enter Jordan, along with having to pay bribes for workers at the Jordanian crossing, in addition to the porters, and even the employees of transport companies.

Wassim points out that the platform to register would operate in an irrational manner, as it would open for registration a few minutes at a random time during the week, and then later would do so on a specific day but without specifying the hour, which means that you have to sit behind the screen for many hours just waiting for the platform to open for a few minutes. All this has encouraged bribes and the reliance on illegal payment in exchange for facilitating the crossing and avoiding being subjected to humiliation and insults. They have even restricted travelers to buying tickets from a Jordanian company that transports passengers, in addition to requiring printing receipts upon arrival and delaying their travel, which prompted them to buy tickets in turn and having to wait behind long lines.

Wassim tells Raseef22, "A number of checkpoints were canceled from the Palestinian side as well as the Israeli side for those traveling from Palestine to Jordan, but between 2009 and 2022 things have not changed much, since traveling from Palestine to Jordan now requires about 14 hours, the same - and sometimes more - in the event of returning to Palestine from Jordan. It is also possible to stay overnight inside the crossing, meaning that if I intend to travel from a Jordanian airport to some country, I am forced to spend a day there before traveling in order to overcome all these great obstacles."

On the other hand, Wassim completely rejects what is being promoted within the King Hussein Bridge Crossing in terms of alternative routes, such as those saying he should just head to the Israeli Ramon Airport. He considers that paying tickets and passing the Israeli crossing towards Ramon is nothing more than a source of income and benefit to the Israeli occupation. He sees that traveling through the "bridge" is the only option in front of them.

He adds, "Unfortunately, the issue of our compulsory travel across the bridge is an inevitable consequence of the allocation of the Lod Airport (present day Ben-Gurion Airport) by mandate authorities to the Israelis. As a Palestinian from the West Bank, I can only travel through that airport with a permit that is difficult to obtain from the army command, equating two airports, Lod (Ben Gurion) and the southern airport (Ramon), in another embodiment of the Israeli imperialist mentality that runs the occupied country."

The restrictions and difficulties of travel for West Bank residents do not stop there, as the renewal of the temporary Jordanian passport allocated to Palestinian "residents of the West Bank" costs 200 Jordanian dinars ($282 US dollars), and the applicant needs to wait 14 days for a security check, along with the need to travel to Amman to obtain the passport, or it can be done by proxy.

While a real Jordanian passport costs only 50 dinars ($70), the same happens when traveling from the heart of the Jordanian capital to the bridge, as a ticket to the bridge is more expensive than traveling from the capital Amman to the Gulf of Aqaba in southern Jordan.

The same is true in Gaza and the West Bank, where no one can criticize the Egyptian and Jordanian administrations in public or out in the open (in front of the media and direct accusations of negligence) because of fear of being refused travel or getting a security ban. 

Since the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt, the operating system at the Palestinian Rafah Crossing, which is the only exit point for residents of the Gaza Strip, has changed. The same thing took place at the VIP section of the Rafah Crossing under the supervision of an Egyptian-Palestinian company, which sources have long hinted at being close to a senior security authority, given its authority to facilitate entry to Egyptian security checkpoints in Sinai.

This company coordinates for Gazans to exit from the Rafah Crossing to Egypt for an amount of up to one thousand US dollars, or return from Egypt to the Rafah Crossing for an amount of $600 US dollars, in exchange for services that they promote as "comfort in air-conditioned buses", and where checkpoints are crossed faster with meals, along with other Egyptian coordination points working with Gazan tourist offices.

As for the VIP section of the Jordanian crossing, travelers pay sums of up to $150 dollars, and this is only to let Palestinians in the West Bank pass faster, all within a distance of only a few kilometers.

After the Israeli occupation opened Ramon Airport to travelers from the West Bank, the Jordanian government announced a plan to develop the bridge, and worked on issuing a tender to develop the permanent headquarters of the King Hussein Bridge at a value of 150 million Jordanian dinars, with the aim of facilitating travel and dispelling obstacles, as stated by the Minister of Transport at the time, Wajih Azaizeh.


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