Refugees endure x-ray screenings to return home

09 December 2011

9 December 2011
Ramadin al Janubi, West Bank

10 December is International Human Rights Day, the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. To mark the day, OHCHR (oPT) and UNRWA are putting the spotlight on human rights stories and rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory. In this series, we look at how the occupation and its associated regime affects the daily lives of ordinary Palestinians, raising questions about the protection of their human rights.

Abu Kassaab overlooking the nearby city of Qalqilia, on the opposite side of the West Bank Barrier
Abu Kassaab overlooking the nearby city of Qalqilia, on the opposite side of the West Bank Barrier

Kassaab Ash-Shu’ur, a resident of Ramadin al Janubi, picks up a child’s car seat stashed in his living room. “Even this must be taken out of the car and carried through the checkpoint, along with the baby,” he explains, describing the security checks he and his family must go through to reach their homes.
   
Kassaab, along with 300 residents of Ramadin al Janubi, and 100 more in the adjoining village of ‘Arab Abu Farda, are not Israeli citizens, but live in the “seam zone”, on the Israeli side of the West Bank Barrier but inside the 1949 armistice line separating Israel from the West Bank.

No freedom of movement

Kassaab with two of his sonsTheir ability to travel to their homes is restricted to the point of violating Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

The Jaljoulia checkpoint that they must cross to reach work, school, and shopping centres in nearby Qalqilia has been controlled by a private company called the Crossing Points Authority (CPA) since 2011. While Israeli cars pass in and out of the checkpoint freely, Ramadin Al Janubi and ‘Arab Abu Farda residents are redirected to a separate screening station that contains x-ray machines, sniffing dogs, and a lab to test liquids - “even aluminum cans”, notes Kassaab. No such screening station existed before 2011 under IDF control.

The checkpoint alone, they say, takes one to three hours to cross, including body scans and full car inspection. In addition, there are severe restrictions on the amount and types of goods they can bring with them, and even the days they may bring groceries.

Limited rights

The construction of the separation Barrier, beginning in 2003, not only limited the community’s ability to travel, work, and reach school, but their human right to livelihood.  Their herd of 1,500 sheep has now shrunk to 300 or 400 because of lack of access to grassland.

“The policy is to attempt to get us to leave,” Kassaab says. The community, originally from the Negev desert, became refugees in the West Bank in 1948. They settled in their current location in 1956, and purchased their land and began building homes in the 70s and 80s. Despite Israeli pressure to relocate them, “we refuse to become refugees a second time,” Kassaab maintains.

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