Protest outside UNRWA after employees were to be forced in to retirement [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
A human rights committee has condemned a decision by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to suspend the wages of day laborers (staff hired and paid one day at a time).
The decision affects thousands of instructors and cleaning workers across UNRWA’s five fields of operations (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza).
Speaking with PRC, Director of Association 302 to defend refugee rights, Ali Huweidi, denounced the “arbitrary” decision which he said will spark tension between UNRWA’s management board and day workers.
Huweidi also stressed the need to pressurize the Agency to backtrack on its decision and reimburse the wages of day workers, particularly in such poverty-stricken areas as Syria and Gaza.
UNRWA said its decision comes after it has had its operations curtailed in its five fields of operations in response to COVID-19 outbreaks.
“Such a decision is arbitrary and unjust and it will affect thousands of Palestinian refugees who are the sole breadwinners for their cash-stripped families, particularly in poverty-stricken Gaza and war-tattered Syria”, read a Sunday statement by PRC. “A suspension of their daily wages means that hundreds of children, women, and disabled persons risk to become deprived of vital items, including food and life-saving medicines.”
PRC said responses to coronavirus outbreaks should not be made at the expense of workers’ sole livelihoods and to the detriment of their humanitarian needs.
“Palestinian refugees and their families should not be turned into ‘scapegoats’ for the anti-coronavirus battle”, stated PRC.
The Centre warned that if serious measures are not taken to protect Palestinian refugee workers and their families who continue to struggle for a living, the consequences will not be very much less tragic than those wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
UNRWA has over 30,000 employees, most of them Palestine refugees and a small number of international staff, in two headquarter offices (Gaza and Amman), five field offices (Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and West Bank), and in four Representative/Liaison Offices (New York, Geneva, Brussels and Cairo).