Bureaucracy proves tougher than barbed wire

AMMAN - The Jordanian official at the King Hussein Bridge was afraid yesterday to give his views on the cause of the chaos and squalor outside his door, writes Sarah Helm. 'They are our enemy,' he said of his Israeli counterparts on the West Bank at the other side of the 30m bridge. 'I am afraid they will do something worse, something more to make the people here suffer.

'They have said they will take 3,000 Palestinians daily. Last Friday they took 500 only. Saturday they take none. Today at 8am they said they would take only 2,000. We do not have enough water, and many people have been taken to hospital; but they still hope to get across to see their families, whom many have not seen for three years.'

It was 40C outside the immigration terminal, and one little girl, dressed in a stiff nylon bridesmaid's dress, sat slumped in her mother's arms. Boys were clustered round a standpipe. A lone bus stood idle, its roof piled with luggage. Plastic fans were wafting the flies back and forth as mothers and babies sat patiently, clutching forms that they thrust at passing officials. Many had been waiting for several days, some for weeks.

On the Jordanian side of the bridge, bureaucratic hell has been let loose, stopping up to 100,000 Palestinians, many of whom work abroad, from returning home for summer visits to the West Bank and Gaza.

Unprecedented numbers have arrived at the bridge this year. Israel demands that all Palestinians working abroad must return to renew residency rights every three years; many postponed visits during the Gulf crisis, and this therefore is their last chance.

But thousands have made the journey in vain, their route across the bridge barred by Israeli immigration quotas. Of the estimated 100,000 who have been waiting, 40,000 remain, the rest having wasted their holiday leave and given up. Israeli officials on the West Bank claim ignorance of the crisis. They say they are letting in more visitors this year than before: that Palestinians are crossing at the rate of 3,500 a day. They say that Israeli soldiers, who check each crease in a child's frock, each seam in a shirt for explosives, cannot be expected to work longer hours. And they say that the rise in 'visitors' is a sign that Palestinians want to come back now that the peace process is going well and life is improving.

The scenes on the East Bank, however, show these claims to be a hideous distortion. The Jordanian officials can only scoff. 'They just want to force people to turn back. It is a good way to do it. It is voluntary transfer.'

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'