Palestine border crossing project
23 March 2011
Palestine border crossing project opens tomorrow A groundbreaking initiative to improve the lives of Palestinian drivers held up at the Irtah crossing between Palestine and Israel will be officially opened tomorrow, Thursday 24 March. The event will take place at 13.00 at the border crossing centre at Tol Karem City. Present will be the general secretary and assistant general secretary of the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation, the global union federation which has organised the project); along with officials from the Palestinian Authority; Shaher Saad, general secretary of the PGFTU (Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions); and Nasser Younis, general secretary of the PGUTW (Palestinian General Union of Transport Workers).
Press are welcome to attend. The project is the result of years of ITF visits, negotiations and organisation designed to remove or reduce the previously crushing problems faced by truck, taxi and minibus drivers facing up to 500 checkpoints and barriers when travelling within the Palestinian West Bank. Thankfully the number of these has been reduced, as has the average length of delays. However, loads and passengers still have to be transferred from Palestinian vehicles to Israeli ones, exposing the drivers concerned to long hours of waiting in very difficult conditions. Therefore the ITF’s latest project is to provide refreshments, toilets, shade and a union meeting space for the waiting drivers, where previously there were none of these things.
Speaking ahead of the opening of the new centre, ITF general secretary David Cockroft commented: “Four years work has gone into reducing the checkpoints and delays and now we are proud to formally launch this centre, which provides the facilities which working drivers need here and now. Although this is the official opening we’ve been testing it out for the last few months and the typical response we’ve been getting is: ‘It’s wonderful’. “We’d like to express particular appreciation to the Canadian Auto Workers’ union (CAW), which has provided a large part of the funding.”
ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “This project has triumphed over difficulties to provide help and comfort, as well as a beacon of what can be achieved, through patience, planning and international solidarity.”