Protest outside UNRWA after employees were to be forced in to retirement [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has announced its decision to extend the contracts of day workers whose contracts were expected to be ended on May 31.
According to informed sources, the move comes following efforts made by Director-General of the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees (GAPAR), Ali Mustafa, to that end.
On April 21, UNRWA’s new Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said the Agency has decided to pay the salaries of its day workers, including those who carried out home-based work.
The decision came weeks after the Agency had said it suspended the wages of day laborers (staff hired and paid one day at a time) after its operations got curtailed in its five fields of operations in response to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Rights groups have condemned the decision as arbitrary and unjust, saying 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. 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.
Human rights activists said responses to coronavirus outbreaks should not be made at the expense of workers’ sole livelihoods and to the detriment of their humanitarian needs.
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).