UN agency launches global appeal for Palestinian aid

A Palestinian man loads a horse-pulled cart with food donations outside a center of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNWRA, in Gaza City, on January 17, 2018. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees faces its worst funding crisis ever after the United States froze tens of millions of dollars in contributions, its spokesman said today. (AFP / MOHAMMED ABED)
Updated 18 January 2018

UN agency launches global appeal for Palestinian aid

AMMAN: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, launched a global fundraising campaign on Wednesday after the US slashed its financial contribution by more than half.
“Let us draw our strength from the Palestine refugees who teach us every day that giving up is not an option. UNRWA will not give up either,” the agency’s Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said.
“At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
The US is the agency’s largest single donor. The State Department said on Tuesday it would reduce its contribution from $125 million to $60 million until UNRWA carried out unspecified reforms.
The decision targets the most vulnerable segment of the Palestinian people and will deprive refugees of the right to education, health, shelter and a dignified life, Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said. “It is creating conditions that will generate further instability throughout the region.”
The cut in aid is meant to pressure the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, but Palestinian refugees in Jordan will bear the brunt. UNRWA has let go 100 day workers out of 280 in Jordan, said Tariq Khoury, MP for the city of Zarqa, which has a large Palestinian refugee population.
Cuts in UNRWA’s health and education services in Jordan would make an already difficult economic situation worse, he told Arab News. “If UNRWA withdraws its services the Jordanian government will be obliged to step in and provide them.”
There are 120,000 students in UNRWA schools in Jordan and Palestinian refugees make five million visits to UNRWA medical clinics.
Aaron David Miller, a former US Middle East peace envoy, said: “UNRWA has major problems. But why does it make sense to cut health and educational services to ordinary Palestinians who have nothing to do with the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas or the still non-existent peace process? Stunning incompetence.”
Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and former UN aid administrator, said: “It’s a sad day for Palestinian refugees. People’s needs should not be sacrificed over political differences.”
UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949 after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in the 1948 war that followed the creation of Israel. It helps five million registered Palestinian refugees.

Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

Destroyed buildings following an explosion on Aug. 12 at an arms depot in a residential area in Syria’s Idlib province city of Sarmada. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2018

Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

  • Russia has offered to repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 but Jordan does not want to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland
  • Jordan would benefit from reopening its border with Syria, but also carried risks of terrorists enter the country with fake IDs

AMMAN: Russia will help Jordan repatriate more than 150,000 Syrian refugees who fled fighting with the Assad regime in the country’s south, a Jordanian official said.

The official said Russia will repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 following the establishment of a center near the border with Syria to process their paperwork.

Jordan’s Minister for Media Affairs Jumana Ghneimat said the Russian proposal has been under discussion.

The Jordanian government refused to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland, she said.

“It is up to the refugee to decide whether he wants to return, although the presence of large numbers of Syrians has become a burden for Jordan.”

The refugees are mainly from the war-ravaged provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida, the scene of fierce clashes between rebels and Assad government forces. 

Ghneimat said the establishment of a processing center nine kilometers from the border with Syria was part of Russia’s larger proposal for the return of the refugees.

Asked about the reopening of the Nassib border crossing, the minister said it was up to Syria to decide if the crossing would be operational.

The Assad regime had not asked Jordan to reopen the border, she said.

The Jordanian border crossing of Jaber is ready to operate and roads leading to the site are secure, Ghneimat said.

A technical team, including several ministry representatives, visited the crossing last week on a tour of inspection.

Jordan would benefit from reopening the border, which is an important avenue for trade with Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and several European countries, a transport ministry official said.

But reopening the border carried risks, including a fear that terrorists would enter the country with fake IDs, the official said.

The closure of the Jordan-Syrian border had severely affected Jordan’s transport sector, the head of the Syndicate of Jordanian Truck Owners said.

But he said that Jordanian trucks are ready to carry goods to Syria as soon as the border crossing is reopened. Before the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, about 7,000 trucks drove through the crossing each day.