Delays in Transport for Children at the Shuafat Refugee Camp Checkpoint
On 20.2.201 ACRI appealed to the Commanding Officer of the Jerusalem District Police and the Commanding Officer of the Border Police in Jerusalem about granting precedence to student transportation at the Shuafat Refugee Camp checkpoint. At the checkpoint, there is one lane to the side of the main road, dedicated to ease passage for public and other special transportation. This side-lane checkpoint was unmanned, causing school buses to be checked on the main road, blocking off the road and causing traffic jams. Although transportation for schoolchildren is meant to take precedence, as per the State’s commitment expressed in a previous lawsuit, due to the inactivity of the side checkpoint this was not achieved and students were regularly late to school. The traffic jams also regularly delayed many other residents, causing them to be late to work or to their businesses.
On 28.2.2019, the Jerusalem District Police recognized that they are obliged to give precedence to student transport at the checkpoint. However, they added: “in the HCJ proceedings, neither the verdict nor the State’s statement delineated specifics regarding the number of checkpoints in the traffic lanes.” Furthermore, the police claim that opening additional checkpoints on the side is a “local initiative by those responsible for the Shuafat crossing” and therefore is entirely up to the police’s discretion.
Ahead of the new school year, Adv. Abir Joubran Dakwar, ACRI Director of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, appealed again to the Jerusalem District Police. We requested that, ahead of the school year, the police commit to giving precedence to student transport at the checkpoint, especially during the crowded morning hours. Adv. Joubran Dakwar noted, “if the police do not come up with an alternative solution, they must open the designated side-lane checkpoint and ensure that schoolchildren receive priority at the Shuafat crossing. Refusal to use the allocated checkpoint, especially during the early morning hours starting from 6:00am, not granting precedence to student transport, is a violation of the obligations given from the High Court of Justice.” She continued, stating that ACRI will consider all legal options if there are more disruptions or delays for student transportation at the checkpoint.
The police responded, claiming that they are acting as per the HCJ’s instructions and giving precedence to student transport. They added, “the relevant stakeholders responsible for the checkpoint are taking steps to decrease the early morning crowding and specifically give precedence to student transport, while also taking into account the security considerations of the Israeli Police.”
An ACRI fieldworker evaluated the situation and found that this school year has begun without problems. The alternate lane and checkpoint is used during the morning hours in order to allow student transportation to bypass the line at the main checkpoint and it seems that, for now, the issue has been resolved. ACRI will continue to monitor the situation at the checkpoint.