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Israel blocks Palestinian family reunification hearings over ‘workload’

Thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank began arriving in the holy city of Jerusalem on Friday for the first Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque amid tight Israeli security measures [Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency]
Israeli officials check identity papers as Palestinians in the occupied West Bank arrive to Jerusalem [Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli authorities are blocking Palestinian family unification applications at the Interior Ministry’s office in occupied East Jerusalem, because of the “intolerable workload”, reported Haaretz.

For the last 18 months or so, the paper reported, “a Palestinian grandfather living in East Jerusalem has been trying to obtain resident status for his three grandchildren, who were all born in East Jerusalem and suffer from mental disabilities”.

“The three live with the grandfather, who is their guardian, but don’t have resident status in Israel because their father is dead and their mother lives in the West Bank,” the paper added.

After 11 reminders were sent to the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority, the Authority answered, “asking a ministry appeals tribunal to reject the family’s appeal” – a rejection based not on the merits, but due to the workload at the ministry’s East Jerusalem office.

According to Haaretz, “the family’s case, which is being handled by the HaMoked Centre for the Defence of the Individual, is not an isolated one.”

READ: Israel detained 1,600 Palestinians, 230 children in 2019

In its response to the appeal filed by the Palestinian grandfather, the Population Authority said its East Jerusalem office serves 300,000 residents and provides a range of services.

“The authority said it has hired the services of an outside consultant firm to help it deal with the workload and has submitted a proposed time line that would include handling of all requests by the end of this year that were filed by the end of 2017,” Haaretz added.

The report noted that “many families have filed similar appeals to force decisions on requests that have bogged down due to the office’s heavy caseload”, with the Population Authority taking “the same stance in dozens of other similar cases for family unification and resident status for Palestinian children in East Jerusalem”.

Some 600 family unification requests are made annually to the population registry office in East Jerusalem; in most cases, one spouse resides in the West Bank or Jordan and are seeking permission to live with their spouse in Israel, or are requesting permanent resident status for children.

READ: ‘Israel has arrested 50,000 Palestinian children since 1967’

Protracted delays “have caused difficulties for hundreds of families”, including for hundreds of Palestinian children living in East Jerusalem who do not have medical coverage because they do not have Israeli identity cards.

“Some parents encounter difficulties enrolling them for school, and older children are afraid of being alone on the street for fear of being picked up by police for lack of documentation. Some families are also forced to live apart until they get their answer,” Haaretz added.

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