Media: The Palestinian Refugees: Why Is Everyone Lying To Them?

20 October 2010

A reply from UNRWA

To the Hudson Institute Website Editor

Sir/Madam,

The article posted on 19 October 2010, “The Palestinian Refugees: why is everyone lying to them?” contains factual inaccuracies and false insinuations about the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The notion of “UNRWA administered camps” is misleading as UNRWA does not run camps, but manages facilities such as schools and clinics within them. We have no control over who lives in the camps and the idea of our Agency forcing anyone to stay in them is absurd. Our education and micro-finance programmes offer self-reliance and give our beneficiaries the ability to leave the camps and lead dignified and productive lives, integrating where desired and possible into host communities. The facts speak for themselves. The proportion of refugees living in camps has steadily declined from about one hundred per cent at the time of our creation over sixty years ago, to just one third today.

Moreover, the conclusions that UNRWA perpetuates the refugee crisis, offers “no solution” and “creates new generations” of refugees are also wrong. As with refugees assisted by UNHCR, the refugee status of UNRWA refugees is transferred through the generations pending a just and lasting solution. What perpetuates the Palestinian refugee crisis is the failure of the parties to resolve the refugees’ plight within the context of a durable political resolution of the conflict. Until such resolution is reached, UNRWA remains committed to its mandate of bringing human development through education, health and social services, offering dignity, hope and stability to some of the most disadvantaged people in one of the world’s most troubled regions.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Gunness,
UNRWA Spokesperson.

Background Information

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$ 56 million.

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