Jul 07 2004

Summer Bridge Blues Again

Published by at 2:47 pm under Articles,Travel Blues

It can be predicted as accurately the Jordan Valley’s summer heat. Every year the Jordan River crossing point turns into one big human tragedy. And families with children are at the center of this suffering.

My 15 year old son and his cousin spent 11 hours this week just trying to cross into Palestine with the Israelis the major culprits of this unnecessary delay. Much has been written about the Israeli side of this tragedy. It is high time we also face the self inflicted wounds caused by the Jordanian government and its outdated rules and regulations that are causing hardships rather than providing badly needed relief.

A major cause of anger to Palestinians wishing to visit Jordan or travel through Jordan is the special permit called “adam mumana.” For the past three years the policy that has given birth to this dreaded permit has become a major source of problems. To begin with this mandatory permit can only be gotten if the Palestinian wishing to visit Jordan has a first had relative in Jordan that can sign a JD6,000 bond undertaking to make sure that the Palestinian visitor returns to Palestine within a month of his visit. This policy was adopted at the launch of the intifada and just before the American war on Iraq because Jordanian officials feared that Palestinians might leave their country en masse. This mass exit has not happened but as in bureaucratic policies it is hard to reverse a policy once it is enacted.

There are many things wrong with this policy. First the fact that it can be given only to close family relatives means that many Palestinians who don’t have first hand relatives in Jordan, simply can’t get out of Palestine. With the Israelis denying Palestinians the possibility of using their airport, such denial by the only available route to Palestinians is tantamount to imprisoning Palestinians. Those Palestinians with relatives in Jordan also face problems and hardships. The paper work has to be done in Amman, although many wishing to apply for these permits don’t live in the capital. This means that a person from Karak or Irbid has to make the long journey to the capital, wait in line, apply wait a day or two and then return to pick up the permit number.

Palestinians wishing to come or travel through Jordan find themselves in a bind, They may not wish to bother their relatives and many simply choose to stay where they are rather than cause their relatives this hardship.

Once approved, the process is not over. At first the Jordanian Authorities were giving petitioners a copy of the permit, but then they replaced this policy with a number. But this number system has its own problem. Since you are not given a document, you are often unaware of what is written on the permit that correspondence with the number. A doctor friend of mine was forced back after hours of waiting because the clerk who typed his wives’ name made a very minor error omitting one letter. An entire family of four having left their Nablus area home at 4 am was forced back by the Jordanian official at 9pm simply because of the error by a Jordanian clerk.

At the bridge a team of officials have been working in the same job for many years thus becoming too cold to be able to be flexible with cases like the above mentioned.

The return trip of Palestinians is also full of troubles on Jordan’s side which are mostly the result of the inability and of the Israelis to process the summer travelers.

Fate is not a good enough reason for the annual humanitarian hardships that men and women, children and the aged are facing trying to cross this bridge of pain. Government officials, the parliament and the press have failed to do their job in putting an effective end to this human tragedy. Serious effort is needed to listen to the people’s pains and to design effective policies that can address these problems. This might require a revisit to many of the regulations as well as consider the possibility of interventions with the Israelis and their sponsors the Americans. The suffering on the bridges is unnecessary. It is time that it stops.

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