Irtah (Sha'ar Efrayim), Fri 21.5.10, Morning
Translation: Suzanne O.
21 May 2020
4:40 - 6:15 a.m.
On Friday the labourers' roadblock at Irta only opens at 5:00 a.m., and closes at 1:00 p.m.
The queue is very long and crowded with many people awaiting the opening of the roadblock. Ten minutes before it opened there began a movement of crowds of people from the back of the queue towards its starting point. The women, who up to this point had sat on the ground, got up immediately. Those who were queuing beside the gate became anxious that the Palestinian employee of the security company had not arrived to open the gate and get them through the turnstile to the area which is the first post in the tortuous way through the roadblock.
Between 5:05 - 5:10 a.m., just a few people crossed. Only two check points for documents were open. Throughout the shift shouts and loud requests were heard from the inner part of the roadblock (called 'rooms').
Up to 5:40 a.m., 10 - 15 people a minute crossed the roadblock (compared to over 30 on other days), and for many minutes at a time not a person crossed. People in the queue and those who had already crossed complained about the terrible overcrowding on Fridays, about the fact that only two inspectors work in the rooms, about the fingerprinting machines which do not function properly, about the inspectors who considerably delay and hold up the inspections. They complained about the rudeness of the inspectors and also that the announcements over the tannoy system in the front area were frequent, rude and offensive. In addition during the hour and a half we were there the turnstiles were stopped many times for a few minutes and, at about 6:00 a.m., for some 13 minutes. Apparently there were not enough inspectors and this was their way to control the numbers in the inspection rooms and the check points.
Between 5:30 - 6:00 a.m., a woman in IDF uniform was present and she ordered the opening of an additional check point.
The women complained of the crowding, of being squashed and again requested a separate queue for women.
One of the queues for the inspection rooms is designated for those who are arbitrarily declared adults at this time either by the security guards, or by the arbitrary orders of the IDF, and so on - those between the ages of 30 - 45. These people cross quickly. The younger ones spend time in the rooms even if they are not subjected to additional inspections. From conversations we had it appears that in the past people had been told to strip (one woman confirmed this and one man said that he had considered what he would do if so requested and had decided that he would ask to return to his village and not comply because of the humiliation it entailed).
Since the roadblock closes at 1:00 p.m. on Friday it is a very short working day, especially considering the amount of time devoted to travelling to and from the place of employment. On the other hand, it is clear that the security company is trying to cut down on personnel as it has to pay more at the weekend. The result is very tough.
The women try to get back to the roadblock by 1:00 p.m. Building labourers who usually finish work later even on Fridays are permitted to cross via Tanim-Gvara gate. They are not permitted to walk through but have to come in the cars which transport them to about 100 metres into the space which is the other crossing of the roadblock. The cars transporting the labourers are not permitted to return the way they came, drivers of the Israeli cars complained loudly about the huge detour - and the time - spent until they get back to the green line area.
It appears that the employers are required by the 'agency' to pay 60 shekels a day for an entrance permit for each employee and some employers demand that the employees reimburse them the sum if they do not turn up for work. Most of the women work in seasonal agricultural jobs - at present picking strawberries - and get 100 shekels for an 8 hour day including a 30 minute meal break. Most of the men work on building sites and receive between 150 - 200 shekels for a longer day.
In our opinion it is important to demand that the roadblock open at 4:00 a.m., on Fridays too and that it should be staffed as on a normal day. It is important that we should see the inside of the building at least once so that we can judge the conditions within. It is important to understand properly the working conditions, the crossing, the labourers' wages and the laws regarding work and workers' rights. These last, it is important to print and distribute to the labourers.