More Than Half a Million Palestinians in Syria Need Priority Humanitarian Attention

Human Wrongs Watch

The plight of Palestinian refugees spans several decades dating back to the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict and resulting in a 65 year-old diaspora which has seen the Palestinians scattered across the Middle East – from blockaded Gaza to the West Bank to Jordan and Lebanon, where they are provided basic services and humanitarian relief by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA),” says a top UN official.

As the violence in Syria has intensified, the Palestinian community in the country has become extremely vulnerable and profoundly traumatised. Photo: UNRWA

As the violence in Syria has intensified, the Palestinian community in the country has become extremely vulnerable and profoundly traumatised. Photo: UNRWA

But it is the 525,000 Palestinian refugees residing in Syria,who are now in need of priority attention as the escalating violence threatens to entrap them in the midst of a bloody conflict with no end in sight, adds UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi in an interview* with the UN News Centre.

With the conflict steadily eroding all semblance of normalcy and destroying the economy, jobs and food in Syria are becoming increasingly scarce., he stressed.

Third Conflagration Engulfing Palestinians

UNRWA’s role in assisting the trapped Palestinians has slowly evolved from providing development-related services such as education and healthcare to bringing emergency provisions to a population under mounting threat, Grandi said.

In the interview, Grandi talks of the third conflagration to engulf Palestinians since he joined the agency in 2005.

He warns that providing access and resources to the half a million Palestinian refugees trapped in Syria and spilling over its borders are among the “most urgent” priorities facing the UN agency but they can only be achieved with the help and appropriate financing from the international community.

Why So Many Palestinians Affected by Crisis in Syria

Asked by the UN News Centre why are so many Palestinian refugees affected by the crisis in Syria and what are the main challenges facing them as the conflict escalates?, Grandi said Everybody in Syria is affected by the conflict. No civilian today is spared from one or the other or several consequences of this horrible conflict, be it straightforward insecurity threatening their lives, be it factors that cause displacement, be it other factors that cause an increase in poverty, or a combination of all these things.

The conflict in Syria is a messy war; not just a very violent and tragic war for the civilian population. So, having the possibility to access people is our most urgent priority.

The Palestinian refugees, registered with UNRWA in Syria since before the conflict, obviously, have been affected just like everybody else. They have not really been involved politically in the conflict, he added.

“There are groups, of course, that have been fighting on both sides, but the vast majority of the population has remained very much faithful to its pledge to remain neutral in this terrible conflict. Palestinian President Abbas has appealed to the Palestinians”

So has UNRWA. But I must say that these appeals have fallen on ears that wanted to hear that appeal because the Palestinians have learned over the decades that being involved in other people’s conflicts is not in their best interests and is not in the interests of the people hosting them, according to Grandi.

*Read Full Interview.

2013 Human Wrongs Watch

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