Palestinian Water; asylum seekers in the humane Indonesian Solution

British Amnesty’s Kate Allen writes for the Independent.

Here are a few facts. Average daily water consumption on the Palestinian side is 70 litres per day, less than the World Health Organisation’s recommended daily minimum of 100 litres. Israel’s average is over four times higher, at 300 litres. (In the UK it’s about 160).

Drill down a little deeper in places like the Jordan Valley or the southern Hebron Hills – which I visited just this Saturday – and the picture is even starker. Many Palestinian farmers, where they haven’t been driven off their land because of “security” closures, are fighting a battle to hold onto water cisterns traditionally used to store rainwater. Israeli soldiers frequently destroy water tanks (snipers even use them as target practice) and the net result is that in some places Palestinian water usage is down to a catastrophic 20 litres per day – emergency humanitarian levels. Crops and animals are dying and farmers are giving up once productive land. To add insult to injury, these same Palestinians will often be able to see lush lawns, well-irrigated fields and even swimming pools – all owned by Israeli settlers who are literally siphoning off the water supply for their own use. In some places settlers are using 20 times more water than their neighbouring Palestinian communities.

The sole source of water for West Bank Palestinians is the Mountain Aquifer, entirely controlled by Israel. Israel uses at least 80% of the aquifer’s water with the result that 450,000 settlers consume as much water or more than all of the 2.3 million Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank combined.

Meanwhile how would Burt Lancaster’s swimmer have managed in Gaza? Would he have been able to swim home? Unlikely. In fact he would have found it difficult to get enough clean water to bring up his family and lead a halfway normal life. One and half million Gazans are reliant on the Gaza Strip’s Coastal Aquifer for their water, but this is polluted due to over-extraction and contamination by sewage and seawater. Some 90-95% of it is now unfit for drinking. Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is preventing the importation of urgently-needed materials to repair water and sewage treatments works. On top of this, the recent Israeli bombardment of Gaza saw nearly £4 million worth of damage done to Gaza’s water and wastewater infrastructure, with reservoirs, wells, pumping stations and 12.5 miles of water mains damaged or destroyed.

Indonesian Solution

In Indonesia, some politicians (governors) are unhappy with being used to hold refugees. The ABC features a director who visited Indonesia to see the conditions there:

An Australian film-maker who visited several Indonesian detention centres has described the “appalling” conditions asylum seekers are being held in.

Jessie Taylor has told ABC’s Lateline program that conditions in some of these centres are akin to “third world jails”.

Ms Taylor visited 11 camps and spoke to 250 asylum seekers across Indonesia. She says she saw people with rampant skin diseases and infections caused by poor conditions.

At one site in Lombok, the drinking water was polluted.

“Their water is full of these awful chunks of stuff which they described to us as being faeces and fungus,” she said.

She also criticises the size of the cells and the numbers of detainees incarcerated there.

“The jail at Pontianak, which is an equatorial city in West Kalamantan, is one of the worst that we saw,” she said.

“There are very large numbers of male detainees – many of them under the age of 18 – in a tennis court-sized cell, which is just a concrete block with your steel bars on it.

“A lot of the faces looking out of the bars were 13 or 14-year-old boys.”

She says she met one asylum seeker who had been stuck in Indonesia for nine years.


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