Ashraf Shannon, PressTV reports from Gaza, 14 August, 2015
Palestinian refugees in the besieged Gaza Strip held a protest rally against cuts by the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees. Similar protests are planned to take place in more than fifty refugee camps in the Middle East against UNRWA in the coming days. The UN agency argues that it was forced to cut services due to lack of funding, but as our correspondent Ashraf Shannon reports, many refugees believe the cuts are politically motivated.
By Gaza correspondent Wessam Afifa, 19 August 2015
Beneath the Blue Flag
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been providing services to some five million Palestinian refugees based in refugee camps in five areas including Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
UNRWA has recently stated it may postpone 2015-2016 school year and impose large cuts in the agency’s services for some 100m dollar fiscal deficit in its budget.
Deeming it the title of their issue inside Palestine and abroad, the Palestinian refugees have their concerns aggravated over their fate, future and right of the return.
In the Palestinian reality , we have the Palestinian Authority PA, the Palestinian legislative Council PLC, the PA’s president. Yet, UNRWA is another real power whose Commissioner-General is the chairman of an international body that represents a lot of refugees, especially in the Gaza Strip, and responsible for the refugees’ education, health, salaries and living till they get back to their homes.
Consequently, UNRWA’s aid coupon for the refugees is more important than the Palestinian ID as well as the Palestinian passport because of which the Palestinian refugees suffer a lot of troubles in the areas they live as refugees.
UNRWA’s aid coupon is the only ticket that combines the whole Palestinian refugees including the rich and the poor, literate and illiterate, the left-wing and the right-wing, the secular and the Islamic as well as Fatah and Hamas members. All are equal when it comes to the flour bag and food basket. Therefore, UNRWA’s aid coupon is an insurance card for thousands of refugee families.
The refugees also have the value of their aid coupon changeable, just like any currency, due to the economic and political regional conditions especially in light of the suffering of the refugees in Syria and Lebanon who lack the minimum human rights.
UNRWA’s aid coupon is also the ticket to get the agency’s services including primary and vocational education, primary health care, social safety and support, infrastructure, microfinance and emergency response.
For more than 65 years, UNRWA has maintained its international responsibility towards the issue of refugees, and it is the only UN’s resolution that was implemented in relation to the Palestinian Cause .
As a result, UNRWA’s blue flag is still the live witness on the Palestinian Nakba, displacement, the Diaspora and the right of return.
Because of that, recent fiscal crisis of UNRWA exaggerates concerns of millions of refugees as the possibility to postpone the school year for some half a million Palestinian students and the wide cuts in UNRWA’s services and jobs is a unprecedented dangerous move causing concerns and suspension on a conspiracy to eliminate the most prominent title of the Palestinian cause.
Five years ago, I interviewed the then Director general of UNRWA in Gaza John Ging . Ging told me that UNRWA is targeted by opponents of the Palestinian people and they aim to end the role of UNRWA as it reflects the identity of the Palestinian refugees and keeps their issue alive.
He said that the right of return will not be wrenched away from the Palestinians as it will remain present as long as “UNRWA” is still existed.
For all of that, the blue flag must be kept flying over the refugees, and they must never allow any party to get it down.