HaMoked to the HCJ: the "solutions" proposed by the State to alleviate the overcrowding at the entrance to the joint building of the Ministry of Interior and the Employment Services in East Jerusalem, are insufficient המוקד להגנת הפרט
HaMoked to the HCJ: the "solutions" proposed by the State to alleviate the overcrowding at the entrance to the joint building of the Ministry of Interior and the Employment Services in East Jerusalem, are insufficient
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On June 21, 2018, the State submitted an updating notice to the High Court of Justice in a petition submitted by HaMoked and Ma'an, listing its proposed solutions for the difficult conditions and extreme overcrowding in the joint building of the Ministry of Interior's Population and Immigration Authority and the Employment Services in Wadi Joz – the only bureaus where Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem can receive services on these matters.

The State announced that residents of East Jerusalem will henceforth be permitted to receive services at Employment Services bureaus throughout the city, unless they already have an ongoing file in the Wadi Joz Employment Bureau. Regarding the Population and Immigration Authority, the State announced plans to open a new sub-branch in East Jerusalem in August near the Qalandiya checkpoint, and stated that an additional sub-branch will open in East Jerusalem within a year. It was further stated that additional employees were added to the existing bureau in Wad Joz, and that renovations are underway to expand the building's lobby, and awnings were added to its entrance to ease the wait outside it. Finally, it was stated that the Population Authority now permits residents of East Jerusalem to renew travel documents at any Population and Immigration Authority bureau in the country.

On June 28, 2018, HaMoked and Ma'an submitted a response to the State's notice, based on daily observations of the building in Wadi Joz and on affidavits of two employees of the organizations, who recently visited the location. The organizations' response, which was submitted with several recent photos of the long queues at the entrance to the building, indicates there has been no change to the situation, and even in the days following the State's notice, the entrance to the building continued to be intolerably crowded.

In response to the State's announcement regarding the opening of all Employment Bureaus in the city to residents of East Jerusalem, the organizations claimed that though this is a positive change, there are approximately 4,450 people with ongoing files in the Wadi Joz bureau who will have to continue attending it. Preventing their transfer to a different bureau, without justification, means the overcrowding in the building will continue.

Regarding the proposed solutions for the overcrowding at the Population and Immigration Authority Bureau, the organizations claimed that opening a new sub-branch near the Qalandiya checkpoint will not help the situation, and that this solution has previously been tried and failed. Even the manager of the Population Authority Bureau herself, at a discussion in the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee in the Knesset in March 2018, acknowledged that opening a sub-branch in Qalandiya would not be helpful, because the bureau will be entered through the checkpoint itself, meaning visitors would have to cross to the other side of the separation barrier – a fact which may deter people from using the location. Additionally, in response to the State's announcement regarding the opening of a second sub-branch in East Jerusalem within a year, the organizations stated that no concrete details were provided regarding this theoretical bureau, and with no clear plan, it was impossible to know if this would be an adequate solution to the problem.

The organizations asked why the proposal to add a third metal detector at the entrance to the building, which was previously presented by the State, was not mentioned, and why there was no mention of the problem of booking appointments at the Wadi Joz bureau. Further, in response to the announcement regarding the option to renew travel documents at any bureau in the country, the organizations stated that this is a positive but extremely partial change, as this option will only remain until the end of 2018.

The affidavit of Adv. Daniel Shenhar of HaMoked, submitted with the organizations' response, indicates that the changes listed by the State did not lead to any improvement in the building in Wadi Joz, and that the queues there continue to be horrendously long and crowded. Adv. Shenhar, whose affidavit was based on a visit to the bureau on June 19, 2018, describes how he only managed to enter it with the couple he was accompanying, who was invited there for a hearing by the Population Authority itself, after waiting outside for an hour and a half and following a phone call by an employee of HaMoked to the bureau. After the hearing, Adv. Shenhar observed people waiting outside who had been waiting there with him two and a half hours previously.

Due to the long passage of time since the petition was submitted, HaMoked and Ma'an requested that the Court issue an order nisi and schedule a hearing on the matter as soon as possible. The State's "solutions" for the situation did not reduce in the slightest the suffering caused to the residents of East Jerusalem, whose sole request is to access basic services, and indicate a failure to handle a problem that the organizations have been pointing out for years.

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