UNRWA Warns of the Humanitarian Impact of More Jerusalem Evictions

06 August 2009

Statement by UNRWA Spokesperson, Chris Gunness

6 August 2009

Jerusalem

UNRWA welcomes the statements this week by the international community which deplore the evictions of two families from their homes in the Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah. However, UNRWA remains concerned about the other refugee families in the area and the possibility of more evictions which will cause further unacceptable humanitarian suffering. We will continue monitor this situation closely.

The families, evicted in the early hours of Sunday from the homes where they have lived for more than half a century, continue to suffer distress and shock. The children are particularly traumatised. The lasting humanitarian impact on the 53 people directly affected including 20 minors cannot be over-estimated. Seeing settlers being escorted into the houses in which some family members were born, was particularly distressing for these refugees.

Not only were they surrounded by Israeli police and security personnel at dawn, their homes broken into and their families thrown onto the streets, they have had to endure the indignity and humiliation of their personal effects being loaded onto trucks and dumped in scrub land at the edge of Jerusalem’s Route One. UNRWA has assisted the families in recovering their belongings and will store them until the issue is resolved. We are raising these cases with the Israeli authorities as a matter of urgency.

The evictions violate the rights of the refugees and international law. We call on the Israeli authorities to refrain from taking any further measures to evict other members of the Palestine refugee community in Sheikh Jarrah and to reinstate the evicted families as the United Nations Special Co-ordinator has demanded.

Ends
 

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$ 69 million.

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