Rights Commission Levels Heavy Criticism at UNRWA over Suspension of Day Laborers’ Wages

Rights Commission Levels Heavy Criticism at UNRWA over Suspension of Day Laborers’ Wages

UNRWA has over 30,000 employees, most of them Palestine refugees and a small number of international staff. Photo credit: AFP

The General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees in Syria (GAPAR) has strongly condemned a decision by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to suspend the salaries of day workers.

GAPAR’s Director Ali Mustafa said the decision affects hundreds of instructors and cleaning workers.

GAPAR urged Amanya Michael-Ebye, Director of UNRWA Affairs for the Syrian Arab Republic, to push for immediately revoking the decision and paying the wages of day laborers who have been laid off due to the propagation of the coronavirus pandemic.

The group denounced discriminatory policies against UNRWA staff, saying day laborers in Jordan have received their wages while those in Syria have been laid off inconsiderately.

Sometime earlier, UNRWA’s media adviser Adnan Abu Hasana said the Agency opted for such a measure owing to an “extremely alarming” financial situation.

Speaking with the London-based Palestinian Return Centre, Abu Hasana said UNRWA decided to lay off day laborers after its operations have been partly halted in its five fields of operations in line with precautionary measures taken by host countries to prevent further COVID-19 contaminations.

In a statement issued in response to the decision, AGPS has called on UNRWA to protect the rights of day laborers particularly in light of the socio-economic discomfort inflicted by COVID-19 outbreaks.

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.

 “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 further 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”.

AGPS also stressed the need for UNRWA to continue to provide Palestinian refugees with vital services, much-needed food and non-food items, and life-saving medical assistance.

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