Tarqumiya, Sun 4.5.08, Morning
5:35 – 6:30
We arrived at 5:35. The large parking lot was full of vehicles waiting for the workers. We asked workers how long they had waited at the checkpoint. The average answer was one hour. The new checkpoint is working very efficiently. The inspectors sit in two inspection rooms, four in a room, with two inspectors in each “sleeve.” We counted 17-20 workers exiting per minute.
‘Hamudi’, the army officer in charge of the checkpoint from the Civilian Administration approached us and answered our questions very courteously. According to him:
· Some 3000 workers pass through inspection by 8:00
· After a period of experimenting, the authorities managed to reach an agreement with the Palestinian drivers who bring the workers to the checkpoint, and this has shortened the vehicle waiting time. They are still working on public transportation.
· The computerized inspection allows a more efficient filtering out of the holders of forged papers, who have stopped coming to the checkpoint, thus easing the pressure. He stated that every morning 600 fewer workers pass the checkpoint than previously.
· We asked about the workers taking their shoes off, which we could see from outside the inspection room. He said they take them off only when the equipment sounds an alarm because of the metal in the heavy work shoes. He said they were urging the workers to leave the heavy work shoes at their place of work and wear lighter shoes without metal when passing through the checkpoint.
· Although we couldn’t see this well from where we were standing, he said that the workers’ outside waiting area is protected from the elements. This needs to be checked in the future.
At the second stage we went to check-out the vehicle inspection area.
Thirteen vehicles were open and waiting for inspection. A dog trainer and dog checked each car. When we asked the drivers how things were, they began complaining about the dogs going inside the vehicles, which they said was against their religion, as contact with the animals made them impure. Some claimed that the dogs had defecated on the upholstery and stuck their heads into bags of food. They said that a different, less humiliating inspection method should be used.
One driver told us that he came with his pregnant wife and asked that she be inspected in a separate line from that of the men. His request was refused and she did not cross over.
Another driver said that the closing time of the checkpoint is not regular. A few days ago some workers arrived to find the crossing closed at 7:00 P.M. and they were forced to spend the night in the parking lot as they couldn’t get home.
We left at 6:30 with a sense that the situation at the checkpoint is acceptable and improving.