UNRWA has over 30,000 employees, most of them Palestine refugees and a small number of international staff.
The London-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS) has called on the UN Works and Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to protect the rights of day laborers particularly in light of the socio-economic discomfort inflicted by COVID-19 outbreaks.
In a Monday statement, AGPS urged UNRWA to reconsider a decision to suspend the wages of day laborers after its operations got curtailed in its five fields of operations as part of the anti-coronavirus battle.
AGPS said the diminution in UNRWA operations is the outcome of agreements made with host countries to prevent further COVID-19 contaminations, rather than a personal decision willingly taken by the workers themselves.
AGPS said the decision has sparked panic among the Palestinian refugee community in Syria and other areas where Palestinian families have been struggling to provide for their families.
“In light of the coronaviurs crisis and the unprecedented employment rates rocking the region, the decision will result in a further deterioration of the calamitous humanitarian condition endured by Palestinian refugee workers”, said AGPS in its statement. “UNRWA represents a lifeline for nearly 95% of Palestinian refugees in Syria, many of whom work in favor of the agency on a daily or monthly basis”.
“UNRWA’s decision stands in sharp contrast to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” the statement read. “UNRWA should live up to its legal, moral, and humanitarian responsibilities regarding Palestinian refugees and work on securing the financial dues of workers and their families”.
The human rights watchdog also stressed the need for UNRWA to provide Palestinian refugees with vital services, much-needed food and non-food items, and life-saving medical assistance.
A few days earlier, UNRWA’s Human Resources chief said day laborers will be laid off due to financial difficulties.
In response, PRC issued a statement stating that 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.