In the last few days, UNRWA received reports of Palestine refugees going missing in capsized boats off the coast of Egypt and Malta. At the same time, escalation in fighting in Deraa, Yarmouk and other camps in Rif Damascus has led to worrying increase in the death toll of Palestine refugees.
“These dreadful developments underline the importance of ending hostilities to avoid tragic loss of life. I reiterate the need to address the particular vulnerability of the Palestine refugees in Syria in the current conflict,” said Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of UNRWA. "This very complex crisis has a Palestinian dimension which must be addressed," he added.
Like the Syrians caught in the cross-fire of the conflict, many of the over half a million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria have lost family members, homes and means of livelihood. UNRWA estimates that approximately 420,000 are in dire need of relief, of which 235,000 are internally displaced. Most Palestinian camps have been over-run by violent fighting, leaving inhabitants in an increasingly desperate state. UNRWA estimates that 70,000 have left to countries in the region like Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Libya and Gaza among others.
Palestine refugees, already suffering poverty, have very limited options for external flight. News of many missing after boats heading to Europe capsized in the Mediterranean Sea Europe is proof of the Palestine refugees’ extreme vulnerability, of their lack of safer options, and of growing desperation.
UNRWA repeats its appeal to all concerned parties to end the suffering, comply with their obligations under international law and resolve the conflict in Syria through negotiation. These recent tragic events bring into sharp focus the particular plight of the Palestine refugees, who continue to require protection pending a just and durable solution to the refugee issue in the context of a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 54.3 million.
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