PRC: Palestinian Refugees News Update - May Bulletin
While there is much focus on the Israeli Palestinian conflict on a political level there is very little if any mention of the refugees who comprise three quarters of the global Palestinian conflict. The 7.1 Million Palestinian refugees face many different and difficult challenges which require the attention of the international community.
This bulletin provides an update on the condition of Palestinian refugees around the world over the past month. It covers stories from the Occupied Territories, UNRWA, host countries and Palestinians in diasporas.
1. PALESTINIANS IN THE OCCUPIED TERRITORY
In the occupied Palestinian territory the human rights of all Palestinians, refugee and non-refugee alike, are foregone under the yoke of a 40-year military occupation that shows no signs of abating. The irony is that since the advent of the Middle East Peace Process in 1991, this occupation has transformed into a complex web of movement and land and housing restrictions that have led esteemed international observers, including the Reverend Desmond Tutu, to compare the occupied territory to pre-democratic South Africa.
1.1 New Military orders
Palestinians can be evicted from the West Bank with much greater ease as Israel adopts two new military orders. There is now a Potential for Tens of Thousands of Palestinians to be displaced from the West Bank.
Early implementation of this order sees Israeli authorities forcibly transfer Palestinians residing in the West Bank to the Gaza Strip in April amid widespread criticism following the entry into force of two new military orders. These orders expand the ability of the IDF to forcibly transfer or deport Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank. Both Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations have expressed concerns that the military orders potentially place thousands of Palestinians at risk of arrest, prosecution, and deportation on the grounds of unclear criteria and without adequate judicial review.
1.2 Gaza's De-development
The effects of the closures on Gaza, where 1.1 million refugees reside, have reached alarming levels. The private sector has been decimated, infrastructure is near collapse and nearly 80% of the population is dependent on direct aid for the basic necessities of life.
As of June 2009, a total of 46% of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip was assessed to be inaccessible or out of production owing to destruction of lands during 'Cast Lead' and inaccessible areas lying within the "security buffer zone". Only a limited percentage of this land has been rehabilitated due to the blockade that restricts the import of materials and equipment for rehabilitation and access to damaged areas.
1.3 Gaza Poverty
The deterioration of living conditions in the Gaza Strip, mainly as a result of the Israeli blockade continued to be of concern. A new poverty survey conducted by UNRWA showed that the number of Palestine refugees completely unable to secure access to food and lacking the means to purchase even the most basic items, such as soap, school stationary and safe drinking water (‘abject poverty') has tripled since the imposition of the blockade in June 2007.
1.4 Gaza's ongoing Killing
There is ongoing assault on the Gaza strip by the Israelis. Since the beginning of 2010, 18 Palestinians been killed and another 72 Palestinians (including 60 civilians)
1.5 Gaza Reconstruction and Recovery
Israeli military operations, including Operation Cast Lead, have resulted in the damage or complete destruction of thousands of shelters in Gaza.
Since June 2007, UNRWA has had construction projects worth almost USD $100 million stalled due to the ban on the entry of construction materials into Gaza under the blockade. This includes over 2,000 new housing units, hundreds of dilapidated shelters unfit for living, and dozens of new schools and health centres. In 2010, UNRWA's most urgent priority will be advocating for the end of the blockade to permit the reconstruction and recovery of Gaza.
1.6 Gaza Freedom Flotilla
Gaza Freedom Flotilla departed this month where 600 fellow passengers and activists joined from over 40 different countries globally, including Greece, Ireland and Turkey to deliver 5000 tons of reconstruction materials, school supplies and medical equipment, in addition to five passenger ships. The initiative is aimed at bringing desperately needed supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip, which has been under a suffocating blockade for 2 years and 11 months.
2.1 Budget Deficit
Filippo Grandi, the new commissioner general of UNRWA, appealed for funding saying that half a million children would end up on the street if an $89 million shortfall is not provided by September 2010.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said that the current deficit was unusually high compared to previous years."It's got worse significantly, for several reasons "First, because the number of refugees we serve goes up every year. The status of all refugees, also those served by the UNHCR, is conferred through the generations, pending a durable solution, so the number of refugees will continue to rise."
"Other reasons have to do with the global financial crisis," he continued. "The squeeze on overseas assistance has become tighter."
2.2 UNRWA Girls Scoop "Special Award" At World's Top Science Competition
Three girls from the UNRWA School at Askar Camp in Nablus have made history by becoming the first Palestinians to win an award at the world's premier youth science competition. Aseel Abu Aleil, Aseel Alshaar and Noor Alarada were competing with 1500 finalists from around the world. They picked up a "special award in applied electronics" at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, California.
In Lebanon, refugees face a situation of restricted rights and social instability. As "foreigners" without benefit of reciprocal privileges, they are precluded from obtaining work without permission from the state authorities, and prohibited from working in the professions. Refugees are also denied social benefits and access to critical public services such as health care. Property restrictions and barriers to housing tenure create further insecurity for refugees in Lebanon.
3.1 Lebanon is urged to create a ministry for Palestinian refugees. 13th may 2010
The Issam Fares Center for Lebanon (IFCL) made a number of recommendations aimed at solving the problems encountered by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
The proposal provided areas of improvement to the Lebanese government, the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian factions, UNRWA and the UN, and Arab and international donors.
The recommendations addressed the Lebanese government and asked that a ministry for Palestinian Refugee Affairs be created and a global rescue plan be formed with the collaboration of international organizations and Arab countries.
It called upon the UN agency to create a realistic rescue plan to turn the camps from "ghettoes" into safe and joyful havens for their inhabitants." It also asked the UN and UNRWA to prepare for an international conference with the participation of Arab, European, American and Asian donor countries.
3.2 Nahar al Bared military confrontation
The 2007 military confrontation in Nahr el-Bared Camp, originally established by the League of Red Cross Societies in 1949, resulted in the total destruction of the camp and the homelessness of some 27,000 refugees. The camp was pounded with heavy artillery and aerial bombardments during the three-month siege. An estimated 95 per cent of all buildings and infrastructure were either destroyed or damaged beyond repair. Most of the camps 40,000 refugees were forced to flee during the confrontation in 2007. The fighting and the subsequent destruction of Nahar al Bared camp is the worst in two decades.
The first stages of a major reconstruction and recovery effort - to rebuild the camp and allow displaced refugees to return to their homes - are now underway.
A phased approach to reconstruction is planned, through which families will gradually begin to return to their homes inside the camp. The reconstruction is due to be completed by mid-2012.
The international community donated 20 million dollars for the redevelopment of Nahar al Bared.
4.1 Worries over Deficit
UNRWA's growing budget deficit which is negatively impacting universal access to services for refugee communities. Refugees residing in camps - around 30% of all refugees in Syria and 25% in Jordan - typically face chronic impoverishment and overcrowded conditions
4.2 More Assistance to Palestinian Refugees in Syria
Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, the Syrian Arab Republic Government, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) inaugurated a newly constructed community center that will benefit nearly 144,000 Palestinian refugees living in Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. The United States contributed $1.4 million to support the construction of the community center.
4.3 Palestinian Refugees from Iraq
DAMASCUS, Syria, February 1 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency closed the Al Tanf refugee camp between the borders of Syria and Iraq and relocated the last of the Palestinian refugees who had been stranded in the bleak no-man's land for nearly four years.
Some of the refugees from Al Tanf have been relocated in Canada, Cyprus, Sweden and UK where PRC has provided assistance.
There are still hundreds of Palestinians in Al Hol and Al Waleed Camp waiting for repatriation. The Palestinian Return Centre is working with Syrian officials, UNRWA and UNHCR for a resettlement plan for the remaining refugees.
5. PALESTINIANS IN DIASPORAS
5.1 Berlin 8th Annual Conference
The 8th Palestinians in Europe Conference concluded its sessions and actions in Berlin. The Conference is the 8th in a series of conferences that bring together Palestinians from all across Europe. It was attended by over 10 thousand people. The Conference was titled "Return is eventual, and freedom for Prisoners"
The conference made a number of declarations including that Palestinians in Diaspora and occupied Palestine is one unity of same legacy, identity, culture and traditions. The Palestinian nation is proud of its historical roots. The Palestinians are one nation and no effort to separate them will succeed. Our Palestinian people hold fast to their rights to resist Israeli occupation by all means guaranteed by all humanitarian laws and charters.
Right of Return to our land and home is an inalienable human right guaranteed under international law. We, Palestinians, gave no one the right to speak on our behalf to barter this basic human rights. We are certain that our return is inevitable and will come true one day.