MAAN calls on the Israeli authorities to act immediately to solve the crisis of issuing magnetic cards (MCs) to Palestinian workers. In recent months there were long lines at the only 3 Israeli checkpoint bureaus that issue the MCs for Palestinians. Because an MC is essential to getting a permit to work, brokers have emerged who extort people by selling them immediate appointments in the otherwise unattainable MC offices.
In an urgent letter sent Oct. 24th to Major General Ghassan Alyan, the Coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT), MAAN called on the Israeli authorities to intervene urgently to solve the crisis of issuing magnetic cards (MCs) to Palestinians, and to stop the extortion of workers at the hands of brokers who have started selling a place on the line to one of the 3 bureaus that issue MCs.
In his letter, MAAN’s Executive Director, Assaf Adiv, wrote that the union had received statements from Palestinians working in Israel, who said that the magnetic card issuing offices had come under unprecedented pressure, and they were no longer able to reserve a meeting to renew the MC or to get a new one. As a result many were forced to stay at home, as without the MC it impossible for a person to cross the checkpoint and get to your work place to an appointment with a doctor or in court.
MAAN indicated in its letter that workers testified to the emergence of a new type of broker who takes advantage of loopholes in the government system to blackmail them. The union collected testimonies from workers who failed to get scheduled meetings in the MC bureau through the regular channels that cost no money but learned that after they paid 250-400 shekels to a middleman, suddenly they were able to get an immediate place on the line.
One of the workers S. A. reported that his continuous attempts to book a turn and renew his magnetic card failed, and as a result he was unable to go to work in the factory where he had worked for years in the Mishor Adumim industrial area. S.A. had to resort to a broker, who arranged an appointment for him after he paid NIS 250. As a result, within a few days he got the MC and went back to work. He reported to MAAN that “The magnetic card issuance bureau near Qalandia checkpoint showed in the application that all the appointments are booked and there is no way one can get an appointment to renew my MC. But after paying a broker, I was able to obtain a turn quickly, complete my transaction and return to work.” He added that while he was there, he met other workers who told him that they all paid up to 400 shekels to book the appointment.
MAAN said that as a result of the massive increase in the number of work permits, the reduction of the age allowed for individuals to enter, and the facilitation of searching for work, there is an urgent need to open additional offices to issue magnetic cards, other than the current three offices next to the checkpoints in Qalandia, Taybeh (Sha’ar Ephraim), and Tarqumia (west of Hebron).
In addition, MAAN called for extending the date currently set on the cards for a period of six months, in order for the Palestinians not to lose the possibility of obtaining a livelihood or medical treatment and other services that are disabled without the magnetic card, in addition to eliminating the phenomenon of brokerage.
MAAN urged the Israeli authorities to take strict measures against brokers of all sorts – those who sell permits and the new ones who arrange meeting times for getting the MC. The union criticized the authorities’ neglect and the failure to provide sufficient offices to issue magnetic cards, thus creating the ground for the new type of extortion.
(The picture of a Facebook page that announces selling appointments to get an MC – note that the ad includes a phone number, a signal that the person behind it is absolutely sure no legal action will be taken against him)