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30.9.2019

Following a petition by HaMoked and MAAN, conditions at the East Jerusalem bureaus of the Ministry of Interior and the Employment Service have been improved. The High Court of Justice notes it expects the state to monitor the situation to prevent backsliding

On September 26, 2019, the High Court of Justice (HCJ) issued its judgment on the petition, filed by HaMoked and WAC-MAAN, to improve the harsh waiting conditions and extreme overcrowding at the entrance to the East Jerusalem bureaus of the Ministry of Interior Population and Immigration Authority and the Employment Service.

The petition was filed in February 2017, following many years during which Palestinians seeking vital services from these bureaus had to endure substandard conditions, including long hours standing in line, outside without shelter from the elements, without any seating options, water cooler or toilet, and ending with a humiliating security check. In July 2018, the court accepted the petitioners’ position and issued an order nisi, ordering the state to explain why it did not come up with solutions to address the situation.

In the judgment, the court noted that following the order nisi, steps had been taken that improved the situation on the ground, and instead of the “inhuman overcrowding” outside the building, “the line has been moved to an internal area inside the building, where better conditions exist”. The court added that “it is to be deplored that only following the petition, were steps taken to ease the overcrowding and congestion”, and expressed dismay at the authorities’ lack of concern and inaction over the years.

The HCJ noted that the current situation still needed to be fixed, and that the problem of overcrowding remained as before, requiring the public to wait for long hours to receive services at the Ministry of Interior bureau. This despite improvements that were made, among them the opening of supplementary bureaus in East Jerusalem and the expansion of digital services.

The HCJ ruled that the petition “in its present form” had become redundant, but added that given that the issue of conditions at the East Jerusalem bureau had been brought before the court time and again, the Authorities are expected to keep track of the situation to prevent it from deteriorating back to what it was, and at the same time to take steps to ease the overcrowding and reduce the service-waiting time.

The state was ordered to pay the organizations ILS 10,000 in costs.

It should be noted that the intolerable overload at East Jerusalem bureau is a direct outcome of the Ministry of Interior’s unreasonable decision to compel the Palestinian population of the city to receive services from this bureau alone, instead of going to any bureau of their choosing, as other residents of the state are allowed to do. So long as the supplementary bureaus in East Jerusalem handle only routine population registry matters, but not child registration and the issuance of visas – procedures that involve a cumbersome center of life examination – the problem of overload will remain.
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