Fears Grow That UNRWA May End Refugee Services to Palestinians

A Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official said on Sunday that Palestinians have been angered by the announcement that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) might allow other UN agencies to help service Palestinian refugees.

The PLO official stressed that preserving the agency means preserving the refugees’ right to return to their homes and receive compensation in line with the international legitimacy resolutions.

UNRWA services 5.6 million Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem with a budget of around $1.6-billion.

According to Palestinians, UNRWA is an important stabilizing factor and a guaranteeing factor for a development process to achieve the SDGs that must include Palestinian refugees.

The senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official Ahmed al-Mudallal also claimed that the alleged plot against UNRWA will hurt the stability of the entire region.

Palestinians fear that the move is the first step in the dissolution of UNRWA they believe embodies the international responsibility toward the Palestinian refugees and their plight.

Arguing that it dooms any effort to resolve the conflict with Israel by creating a permanent growing class of Palestinian refugees, right-wing politicians in both Israel and the US have long called for UNRWA to be dissolved.

They also demanded for other local governments or other UN agencies – including the UNHCR- to service Palestinian refugees, something that UNRWA is now allowing for the first time in its 73-year history.

In a move that accelerated UNRWA’s financial crisis, it was these reasons that prompted the Trump administration to end its funding to the agency which has remained in financial distress although US President Joe Biden has restored that funding.

As global attention has turned to other crises, such as Ukrainian refugees, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said on Saturday that maximizing partnerships within the broader UN system is one of the options to deal with the fiscal crisis.

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