West Bank ID holders ‘stranded’ on Jerusalem side of the Barrier

06 March 2012

After the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967 and subsequent unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem, Palestinian residents who lived in the newly defined Jerusalem municipal area were granted permanent residency status in the city and provided with blue ID cards. Those that were situated in the rest of the West Bank were provided with green (West Bank) ID cards.

The convoluted route of the Barrier, particularly around the Jerusalem area, deviating from the Green Line that separates Israel and the West Bank, has led to the isolation of West Bank ID holders in communities along the length of the Barrier surrounding the city.


UNRWA’s Barrier Monitoring Unit (BMU) conducted a survey of West Bank ID holders "stranded" on the Jerusalem side of the Barrier between May and June 2011. OCHA estimates around 1,600 West Bank ID holders currently live on the "Jerusalem" side of the Barrier and our study surveyed 94 households, totaling 665 individuals with West Bank identification.

The methodology for the survey was developed by the BMU and facilitated by OCHA and UNRWA departments.

Survey Sample

The surveyed households were located in 19 communities around the Jerusalem periphery:

  • 54.3 per cent in the Israeli-defined Jerusalem municipal area
  • 45.7 per cent in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank

The study surveyed 94 households containing West Bank ID holders (a total of 665 individuals).

  • Within that group, 82 per cent of individuals were West Bank ID holders and 18 per cent were Jerusalem ID holders.
  • 73.4 per cent of households contained only West Bank ID holders and 26.6 per cent were mixed households, containing at least one West Bank ID holder.

In 24.5 per cent of households, all members were refugees, and 5.3 per cent of households contained at least one member of the family that is a refugee.

General access

For West Bank ID holders living on the Jerusalem side of the Barrier, there are a number of mechanisms that are supposed to allow access through checkpoints to the “West Bank side” and easy return to their homes. In many cases, a coordination system controls passage through the Barrier, requiring individuals to show personal identification including an address, which must correspond to a list held at the checkpoint.

Others must obtain special permits to live in their homes and to gain access through the Barrier. While some households are required to renew their permits every few months, others have permits valid for up to two years.

However, there are a number of households and communities in the Jerusalem municipal area that do not have a coordination or permit regime to provide them with access through the Barrier or even to remain residing in their own homes.

This situation leaves such communities and households in a very precarious position. The Israeli authorities consider them  “illegal” residents of their areas and they are therefore:

  • at risk of being detained and expelled to the West Bank side of the Barrier
  • not legally permitted to obtain services or employment within the Jerusalem area.
  • cannot travel across the Barrier for fear of being unable to return to their own homes.

In some cases individuals must scale the Barrier in order to move between the Jerusalem side and the “West Bank side”, with all the risks that entails, while others no longer cross the Barrier at all.

Economic impact

45.7 per cent of households state that there is at least one member in full-time employment with many others relying on occasional casual work. However, the number in full-time employment decreases to 30.4 per cent in refugee households. 51.2 per cent reported that the main earner within the household changed their main place of work because of the Barrier, while 56.5 per cent of refugee households report the same. Furthermore, 75.3 per cent of all households reported a marginal to substantial decline in the earning capacity of the household, with this figure standing at 95.7 per cent for refugees.

Many of the individuals interviewed continue to obtain employment illegally within Jerusalem or in the nearby settlements, while others have changed their place of employment to the “West Bank side” of the Barrier resulting in a corresponding decrease in their incomes. Others are unemployed as they simply cannot obtain work due their status.

In Bedouin communities, many of which derive at least part of their income from herding, 73.3 per cent of households reported either losing or selling livestock, with many reporting a loss of access to grazing land because of the Barrier, as well as difficulties in transporting fodder and animals across the checkpoints.


Most households, particularly in the urban areas around Jerusalem, still access hospitals in Jerusalem for medical services, despite it being illegal for most to do so. The cost of medicine within the Jerusalem urban area is more expensive than on the “West Bank side”, further increasing the cost of health care for those with restrictions at checkpoints or unable to travel across the Barrier.

However, other communities that continue to use hospitals on the “West Bank side” of the Barrier have seen an increase in the time, distance and cost in accessing these facilities. Many communities and households, particularly in the Jerusalem periphery, have had to change where they receive primary health care due to the construction of the Barrier.

Many communities also face difficulties with obtaining access to ambulances, with passage necessitating coordination with the Israeli Civil Administration, often taking extended periods of time. In some areas a back-to-back procedure, where a patient is transferred from an ambulance at one side of the checkpoint to another ambulance on the other side, is required. In some locations there is no ambulance access or back-to-back procedure available from the “West Bank side” of the Barrier.


Of all households surveyed, 80 per cent contain children. 37.1 per cent of households reported that at least one child had changed where they attend primary education, with this number rising to 44.4 per cent for refugee households. 35.7 per cent of households reported changing where their children attend secondary education, with this number declining to 22.2 per cent for refugees.

47.9 per cent of all households reported a moderate to severe deterioration in the educational performance of the children while 65.8 per cent stated that the motivation of their children to attend school has declined since the construction of the Barrier. Of refugee households, 66.7 per cent reported a moderate to severe deterioration in the educational performance while 77.8 per cent stated that the motivation of their children to attend school has declined.

Building and construction

Being located within the Jerusalem municipality or in Area C, West Bank ID holders face great difficulties with issues of building restrictions and demolitions. This issue is uniform across all areas where the survey was conducted and affects both refugees and non-refugees alike.
Of the households surveyed, 87.2 per cent own their home. All households reported building restrictions on their land, which have led to overcrowding (69.1 per cent) and a deterioration in living conditions (64.9 per cent) within the household. Of all households surveyed, 39.2 per cent have had a structure or extension demolished.

Psychosocial impact

Results from the survey indicate that the psychosocial impact of the Barrier is felt by almost all households.

95.7 per cent reported that the emotional wellbeing of adults within the household has deteriorated since the construction of the Barrier. Of households containing children, 91.9 per cent stated that the emotional wellbeing of children had deteriorated. However, among refugees this figure becomes more striking with 100 per cent of households reporting a deterioration in the emotional wellbeing of both adults and children.

Surveyed households described numerous manifestations of this deterioration in their children. These include:

  • feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • no friends or issues with visiting friends
  • reduced social interactions and visits to family
  • increased problems in school
  • stress
  • no access to recreational areas
  • fear of crossing checkpoints.

Similarly, adults have also seen a deterioration in their emotional wellbeing with respondents citing increased stress, anxiety and worry, feelings of isolation, increased conflicts within the household and depression.

Protection and displacement

Most households surveyed cited the Barrier as one of the main pressures on them. They also cited a number of other issues that have a direct relationship to the Barrier and its permit regime, including:

  • economic situation/access to jobs
  • access to health and other services
  • Israeli security force harassment at checkpoints.

Respondents also widely cited restrictions on construction, with the resultant overcrowding and deterioration in living conditions, as well as demolitions, as being large pressures on the household.

16.1 per cent of all households reported that these pressures would lead household members to consider leaving in the future while 14.5 per cent of households stated that at least one household member has left the household as a result of one or more of these factors.

Case studies


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