Statement by UNRWA on today's events in Yarmouk camp, Syria

16 December 2012
Horrific images captured by news agencies, and reports of numerous casualties and the flight of Palestine refugees from Yarmouk camp are being followed up and assessed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) with extreme worry and grave concern.
Initial reports indicate that air strikes hit the centre of Yarmouk, and the camp is said to be in a chaotic state; with ongoing fighting in the southern parts of the camp inching north-wards, and reports coming in of families trying to escape on foot as cars and other forms of transportation are not able to move within the camp.
UNRWA has repeatedly warned that if all parties to the Syrian armed conflict fail to fulfil their obligations to protect Palestine refugees and respect their neutrality, the consequences would be devastating and long lasting. The Agency has advocated to maintain the neutrality of the 525,000 Palestine refugees in Syria and not implicate them in the conflict. The horrible events of today raise serious questions about the stability and protection of the Palestine refugees in Syria.
Thus far, a significant number of Palestine refugees, as well as Syrians, have been killed, injured and compelled to leave. The killings in Yarmouk today send a clear and unfortunate signal that calls by UNRWA and others on all parties to spare civilians and to respect the neutrality of Palestine refugees are going unheeded.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi has appealed to the Syrian authorities, and all parties to the conflict, to safeguard the security of Palestine refugees wherever they reside in Syria. Grandi‘s appeal takes on an urgent nature following today‘s events.
The Agency will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves, and its dedicated staff will continue to assess the situation and render any needed assistance.

Background Information

UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, and financial support has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, deepening poverty and conflict. As a result, the UNRWA General Fund, which supports core essential services and most staffing costs, operates with a large deficit. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large deficits, are funded through separate funding portals. 

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)2 589 0724

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