On 17 October, Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of the Republic of Malta, made the first visit of any Maltese head of state to the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). Accompanied by his wife, Michelle, the Prime Minister visited the Palestine refugee camp of Aida, hosted by Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and Felipe Sanchez, the Agency’s Director of West Bank Operations.
In Aida, the Prime Minister visited an UNRWA School. He was given a rooftop tour of the camp and shown the clearly visible West Bank barrier as it cut through the Bethlehem landscape. Agency officials also briefed the Prime Minister on the situation of Palestine refugees. Amjad Abu Laban, Chief Area Officer for Hebron, explained: “The families who own the land right in front of us need permits to cultivate their trees.” The limited amount of time afforded to them, he continued, is especially disruptive at the moment, as the olive harvest season begins.
The Commissioner-General discussed the services that UNRWA provides to Palestine refugees throughout its areas of operations. He said that the needs of the community in the Aida camp are paralleled by those of Palestine refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Gaza Strip.
Prime Minister Muscat acknowledged the strain under which UNRWA operates. He emphasized his continued support for Palestine refugees and UNRWA. “The people of Malta stand with you and hope for a peaceful solution,” he said.