A protester holds a placard which states ‘Defund the IOF (Israel Occupation Forces) not UNRWA during the demonstration in Haymarket. Tens of thousands marched in London demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. [Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]
The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) has expressed deep concern and disappointment regarding the decision by the governments of the UK and Scotland, among other countries, to defund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
“We understand the complexities surrounding international aid and budget allocations, but we believe it is crucial to bring attention to the potential consequences of such a decision on the lives of millions of refugees and the stability of the region”, PRC said in a Letter to David Cameron and Hamza Yusuf.
“UNRWA has played a vital role in providing essential services, including education, healthcare, and humanitarian assistance, to Palestinian refugees for decades. By defunding this agency, we risk jeopardizing the well-being of vulnerable populations who heavily depend on these services for their survival. The decision to withdraw support may lead to a humanitarian crisis, impacting the lives of millions who are already facing immense challenges”, the letter read.
PRC warned that the reduction of funding to UNRWA has the potential to escalate tensions in the region as the services provided by UNRWA contribute significantly to stability by addressing the basic needs of the refugee population. “Denying them access to education and healthcare not only endangers lives but also contributes to a cycle of despair that can fuel unrest and insecurity”.
“The decision to freeze funding leaves the Palestinian people in displacement camps in Gaza and UNRWA’s other fields of operations at the serious risk of mass starvation”, it added.
PRC called on the UK and Scottish governments to reconsider such a decision in order to avoid complicity in Israeli genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people at a time when more than half a million people — a quarter of the enclave's blockaded and bombarded population — face catastrophic hunger and starvation.
UN data indicates that 570,000 Gazans are classified as having food insecurity equivalent to famine levels of starvation, as defined by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).
At the same time, Palestinian refugees in displacement camps across Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria continue to grapple with dire humanitarian conditions, with many risking their lives onboard Europe-bound “death-boats” seeking safer shelters and better livelihoods.
The letter urged Scotland and Britain to “rather stand on the right side of history and prevent irredeemable damage to the rights of Palestinians, especially after the International Court of Justice ordered that Israel must take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip”.
“We respectfully urge you to reconsider this decision and explore alternative solutions to address any concerns about UNRWA's operations. Supporting the agency is not only a humanitarian imperative but also a strategic investment in regional stability”, added PRC.