What UNRWA crisis means for Palestinian refugees beyond Gaza

2024.02.07 04:58


© Reuters. Palestinian college students stroll by the doorway of a college run by UNRWA close to Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon February 5, 2024. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir


By Emilie Madi and Suleiman Al-Khalidi

BEIRUT/AMMAN (Reuters) -The prospect of the U.N. company for Palestinians (UNRWA) being pressured to close down companies by the tip of February is deepening despair in refugee camps throughout the Middle East, the place it has lengthy offered a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of individuals.

It can also be inflicting concern in Arab states internet hosting the refugees, which would not have sources to fill the hole and worry any finish to UNRWA could be deeply destabilising.

UNRWA, which offers healthcare, schooling and different companies, has been pitched into crisis since Israel alleged that 12 of its 13,000 employees in Gaza had been concerned within the Oct. 7 Hamas-led assault on Israel that precipitated the Israel-Hamas battle, prompting donors to droop funding.

UNRWA hopes donors will assessment the suspension as soon as a preliminary report into the assertions is printed within the subsequent a number of weeks.

For Palestinians, UNRWA’s significance goes beyond very important companies. They view its existence as enmeshed with the preservation of their rights as refugees, particularly their hope of returning to houses from which they or their ancestors fled or had been expelled within the battle over Israel’s creation in 1948.

In the Burj al-Barajneh camp on the outskirts of Beirut, Raghida al-Arbaje stated she will depend on UNRWA to highschool two of her youngsters and canopy medical payments for a 3rd who suffers from an eye fixed situation.

“If there is no UNRWA, I can’t do any of this,” stated Arbaje, 44, including that the company had additionally paid for most cancers therapy for her late husband, who died 5 months in the past.

A shanty of feebly constructed buildings and slim alleys, Burj al-Barajneh will depend on UNRWA in some ways, together with programmes that provide $20 a day for labour – very important earnings for refugees who’re barred from many roles in Lebanon, Arbaje stated.

She described the awful state of affairs for Palestinians in Lebanon, saying: “We are dead even as we live.”

Appealing to donors to maintain funding UNRWA, she added: “Don’t kill our hope”.


UNRWA – the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees within the Near East – was arrange in 1949 to offer refugees with very important companies.

Today, it serves 5.9 million Palestinians throughout the area.

More than half 1,000,000 youngsters are enrolled in its faculties. More than 7 million visits are made annually to its clinics, in accordance with UNRWA’s web site.

“The role this agency has played in protecting the rights of Palestinian refugees is fundamental,” UNRWA spokesperson Juliette Touma instructed Reuters in an interview.

UNRWA has stated the allegations towards the 12 employees – if true – are a betrayal of U.N. values and the individuals it serves.

The Hamas-led assault killed 1,200 individuals and abducting one other 240, in accordance with Israeli tallies. Since then, an Israeli offensive has killed greater than 27,000 individuals in Gaza, in accordance with well being officers in Hamas-run Gaza.

Israel desires UNRWA shut down.

“It seeks to preserve the issue of Palestinian refugees. We must replace UNRWA with other U.N. agencies and other aid agencies, if we want to solve the Gaza problem as we plan to do,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Jan. 31.

In Jordan, Palestinians have held protests towards any such transfer. “The Destruction of UNRWA will not pass … Yes to the right of return”, declared indicators held aloft at a Feb. 2 protest in Amman.

Hilmi Aqel, a refugee born within the Baqa’a Palestinian refugee camp, 20 km (12 miles) north of Amman, stated his UNRWA ration card “proves that me and my children are refugees”.

“It enshrines my right.”


Arab states internet hosting the refugees have lengthy upheld the Palestinians’ proper of return, rejecting any suggestion they need to be resettled within the nations to which they fled in 1948.

In Lebanon, the place UNRWA estimates as much as 250,000 Palestinian refugees reside, the problem is infused with long-standing considerations about how the presence of the predominantly Sunni Muslim refugees impacts Lebanon’s sectarian stability.

Lebanese Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar stated choices by donor states to droop help had been unfair and political, and the repercussions could be “catastrophic” for the Palestinians.

“If we deny the Palestinians this, what are we telling them? We are telling them to go die, or to go to extremism,” he instructed Reuters in an interview. The determination could be destabilising for Lebanese, in addition to Palestinians and refugees from the battle in neighbouring Syria, he stated.

In Jordan, the UNRWA crisis has touched on long-standing considerations. Jordan is residence to some 2 million registered Palestinian refugees, most of whom have Jordanian citizenship. Officials worry any transfer to dismantle UNRWA would whittle away their proper of return, shifting the burden onto Jordan.

Norway, a donor that has not reduce its funding, has stated it’s moderately optimistic some nations that had paused funding would resume funds, realising the state of affairs couldn’t final lengthy.

The United States has stated UNRWA must make “fundamental changes” earlier than it would resume funding.

Moussa Brahim Dirawi, a refugee in Burj al-Barajneh in Beirut, expressed worry for Palestinian youngsters had been UNRWA faculties pressured to close down.

“You are contributing to making a whole generation ignorant. If you are not able to put your children in school, you would put them on the streets. What would the streets raise?” he stated.

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