Shrinking budget: UN agency raises alarm over Syrian refugee relief in Jordan

Shrinking budget: UN agency raises alarm over Syrian refugee relief in Jordan
Syrian children play in the Zaatari refugee camp, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the Jordanian capital Amman on February 15, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 22 July 2023

Shrinking budget: UN agency raises alarm over Syrian refugee relief in Jordan

Shrinking budget: UN agency raises alarm over Syrian refugee relief in Jordan
  • Current lack of funding undermining great achievements made in over a decade, UNHCR representative says
  • ‘Determined and coordinated action needed to keep success story alive,’ aid official claims

AMMAN: The UNHCR has warned of “serious consequences” for refugees in Jordan if no adequate funding is added to its shrinking budget.
The UN refugee agency has issued a recent appeal calling for “immediate” assistance after other agencies announced plans to reduce health services and food help in camps in Jordan.
Jordanian government-owned Al-Mamlakah TV commented on a UNHCR report which said that the UN refugee agency had only received 32 percent of its financial needs for 2023, or “$125.7 million of its annual budget of $390.11 million.”
In light of this 68 percent deficit, Dominik Bartsch, the agency’s representative to Jordan, has warned of a “humanitarian crisis and serious consequences for refugees and host communities.”
He added: “The current lack of funding for the refugee response is undermining the great achievements made in over a decade.”

Now, there is an imminent risk that the situation is sliding back into a humanitarian crisis, with serious consequences for refugees and host communities.

Dominik Bartsch, UNHCR’s representative to Jordan

He said that there was growing concern that Jordan’s ability to include refugees in healthcare and education systems might be eroded.
“Sustained support over the years has allowed Syrian refugees to access the labor market,” Bartsch said.
“Now, there is an imminent risk that the situation is sliding back into a humanitarian crisis, with serious consequences for refugees and host communities.”
Bartsch praised Jordanian efforts in past years in giving assistance to refugees.
The country issued a record 62,000 work permits to Syrians in 2021, according to UNHCR.
This was a result of the international community committing funding and expanded trade facilitation under the Jordan Compact, an initiative to improve access to education and legal employment for Syrians forced to flee their homes.
Bartsch added: “Jordan has done so much, and donors need to recognize what is at risk.”
He called for a “determined and coordinated action … to keep the success story in Jordan alive.”
Bartsch said that the lack of assistance was exacerbating the vulnerability of refugees.
He added: “The number of refugee families who cannot pay their rent and are at risk of eviction from their homes rose by 66 percent from December 2022 to February 2023.”
The representative warned of another wave of refugees toward Europe should no “immediate action” be taken to improve their financial situation in Jordan.
He said: “Another consequence of lack of assistance is that it may push refugees onto irregular routes toward Europe. UNHCR is concerned about their protection after leaving Jordan as they are exposed to exploitation, abuse, and death.
“The recent shipwreck off Greece was a stark reminder that people who do not see a perspective, make desperate choices.”
The World Food Programme has recently announced a reduction of the value of its monthly food assistance for refugees in Jordan’s refugee camps, from around $32 to $21.
The UNHCR has said that a number of nongovernmental organizations providing health services have left Zaatari and Azraq camps in Jordan, leading to serious shortages and quality issues of remaining facilities.
Jordan has said it is providing refuge to about 1.3 million Syrians, including some 670,000 officially registered with the UNHCR as refugees, making the kingdom host to the world’s second-largest population of Syrian refugees per capita after Lebanon.
Turkiye has accepted 3.6 million Syrian refugees, while Lebanon hosts almost 1 million, according to the UNHCR.
Jordan hosts the Zaatari camp, the largest in the Middle East, and the Azraq camp. Most Syrians in Jordan live in cities and urban centers, however, where they work in certain industries.
While Jordan has been stepping up efforts for a voluntary return of Syrian refugees, a recent UNHCR study found that only 0.8 percent of them are willing to go back home.
The survey revealed that around 97 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan have no intention of returning home in the next 12 months due to security and economic concerns, including a lack of housing and basic amenities in Syria.
Jordan has announced that it has begun coordinating with the Syrian government and relevant UN organizations to facilitate the voluntary return of some 1,000 Syrian refugees.
The decision was announced on May 1 following a landmark meeting in Amman of foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan. Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad also attended.

Israel’s Netanyahu presents first official post-Gaza war plan

Updated 22 sec ago

Israel’s Netanyahu presents first official post-Gaza war plan

Israel’s Netanyahu presents first official post-Gaza war plan
  • Netanayhu rejects the “unilateral recognition” of a Palestinian state
  • Replace Hamas rule in Gaza while maintaining public order
JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented a “day after” plan for Gaza, his first official proposal for when the war in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory ends.
According to the document, presented to members of Israel’s security cabinet on Thursday and seen by Reuters on Friday, Israel would maintain security control over all land west of Jordan, including the occupied West Bank and Gaza — territories where the Palestinians want to create an independent state.
In the long-term goals listed, Netanayhu rejects the “unilateral recognition” of a Palestinian state. He says a settlement with the Palestinians will only be achieved through direct negotiations between the two sides — but it did not name who the Palestinian party would be.
In Gaza, Netanyahu outlines demilitarization and deradicalization as goals to be achieved in the medium term. He does not elaborate on when that intermediary stage would begin or how long it would last. But he conditions the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, much of which has been laid to waste by Israel’s offensive, on its complete demilitarization.
Netanyahu proposes Israel have a presence on the Gaza-Egypt border in the south of the enclave and cooperates with Egypt and the United States in that area to prevent smuggling attempts, including at the Rafah crossing.
To replace Hamas rule in Gaza while maintaining public order, Netanyahu suggests working with local representatives “who are not affiliated with terrorist countries or groups and are not financially supported by them.”
He calls for shutting down the UN Palestinian refugees agency UNRWA and replacing it with other international aid groups.
“The prime minister’s document of principles reflects broad public consensus over the goals of the war and for replacing Hamas rule in Gaza with a civilian alternative,” a statement by the Prime Minister’s office said.
The document was distributed to security cabinet members to start a discussion on the issue.
The war was triggered by a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage, according to Israeli counts.
Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has responded with an air and ground assault on blockaded Gaza that has killed more than 29,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities. The offensive has displaced most of the territory’s population and caused widespread hunger and disease.
The spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, told Reuters that Netanyahu’s proposal was doomed to fail, as were any Israeli plans to change the geographic and demographic realities in Gaza.
“If the world is genuinely interested in having security and stability in the region, it must end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and recognize an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.
The war in Gaza has revived international calls — including Israel’s main backer the United States — for the so-called two-state solution as the ultimate goal for resolving the decades long Israel-Palestinian conflict. However, a number of senior Israeli politicians oppose this.
The two-state solution has long been a core Western policy in the region but little progress has been made on achieving Palestinian statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s.

Day 5 at ICJ hearing: Oman and Qatar to speak at The Hague

Day 5 at ICJ hearing: Oman and Qatar to speak at The Hague
Updated 8 min 34 sec ago

Day 5 at ICJ hearing: Oman and Qatar to speak at The Hague

Day 5 at ICJ hearing: Oman and Qatar to speak at The Hague
  • Representatives from the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have demanded Israel end its occupation of the Palestinian territories

DUBAI: The International Court of Justice, the UN’s top court, on Friday will contiune its hearing from dozens of states and three international organizations who question the legality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Representatives from countries including Qatar, Oman, Pakistan, Malaysia and the United Kingdom are expected to deliver their positions during the foruth day of the hearing at the ICJ, also known as the World Court.

Speakers from the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have already demanded Israel end its occupation of the Palestinian territories, with the Kingdom’s envoy to the Netherlands Ziad Al-Atiyah stating Israel’s continued actions were legally indefensible.

The hearing follows a request by the UN General Assembly for an advisory, or non-binding, opinion on the occupation in 2022. More than 50 states will present arguments until Feb. 26.

UN agency for Palestinians refugees at ‘breaking point’: chief

UN agency for Palestinians refugees at ‘breaking point’: chief
Updated 51 min 38 sec ago

UN agency for Palestinians refugees at ‘breaking point’: chief

UN agency for Palestinians refugees at ‘breaking point’: chief
  • UNRWA has been accused by Israel of serving as a tool of the Hamas militant group
  • UNRWA’s Philippe Lazzarini: Israel has not provided evidence against its 12 former workers

UNITED NATIONS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned Thursday it has reached a critical juncture as it struggles to cope with the war in Gaza.

“It is with profound regret that I must now inform you that UNRWA has reached a breaking point,” chief Philippe Lazzarini said, as donors freeze funding, Israel exerts pressure to dismantle the agency and humanitarian needs soar.
“The Agency’s ability to fulfill the mandate given through General Assembly resolution 302 is now seriously threatened,” he said in a letter to the assembly.
That is the resolution under which the agency was founded in 1949, following the creation of Israel.
UNRWA employs some 30,000 people working in the occupied territories, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

Students attend a class inside a school run by UNRWA at Mar Elias Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon, on February 21, 2024. (REUTERS)

Several countries — including the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan — have suspended funding to UNRWA in response to Israeli allegations that some of its staff participated in the October 7 attack on Israel.
In an interview published over the weekend, Lazzarini said $438 million has been frozen — the equivalent of more than half of expected funding for 2024. He said Israel was waging a concerted effort to destroy UNRWA.
The UN fired the employees accused by Israel and has begun an internal probe of UNRWA.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also tasked an independent panel with assessing whether UNRWA acts neutrally in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Lazzarini asserted Thursday that Israel has provided no evidence against the 12 former employees it accuses, but 16 countries have suspended funding anyway.
“I have cautioned donors and host countries that without new funding, UNRWA operations across the region will be severely compromised from March,” he said.
He added: “I fear we are on the edge of a monumental disaster with grave implications for regional peace, security and human rights.”
The war started after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Hamas militants also took about 250 hostages — 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,410 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by Gaza’s health ministry.

WHO plans more evacuations from Gaza hospital as bodies buried on grounds

WHO plans more evacuations from Gaza hospital as bodies buried on grounds
Updated 23 February 2024

WHO plans more evacuations from Gaza hospital as bodies buried on grounds

WHO plans more evacuations from Gaza hospital as bodies buried on grounds

Aid agencies hope to evacuate roughly 140 patients stranded in Gaza’s Nasser hospital, a World Health Organization official said on Thursday, as Palestinian authorities reported that Israeli troops withdrew from the complex and then stormed it again.

Medical teams had buried on the grounds of the hospital 13 patients who had died because the facility had no power or oxygen, Gaza’s health ministry said.

The WHO says the hospital in Khan Younis, which is Gaza’s second-largest and is crucial to the territory’s crippled health services, stopped working last week after an Israeli siege followed by a raid.

The WHO and partners have so far carried out three evacuations from the hospital, the latest on Wednesday, transferring a total of 51 patients to southern Gaza, the UN agency’s Ayadil Saparbekov told a press briefing.

“The WHO will continue to try evacuation of those critically ill and critically wounded patients from the Nasser hospital to other hospitals in the south, including the field hospitals that have been established in Rafah,” Saparbekov said.

“However it’s a very difficult and high-risk mission.”

Israeli forces had withdrawn from the hospital, positioning themselves nearby and preventing movement to and from it before storming it once more, the Gaza health ministry said. There was no immediate comment from Israel.

The number of patients remaining in Nasser hospital had been changing by the hour as some people left to escape the fighting and others succumbed to their wounds, Saparbekov said.

Gaza’s health ministry had said in an earlier statement on Wednesday that 110 patients were waiting to be evacuated. It said eight patients at Nasser had died due to the lack of power and oxygen four days previously and that their bodies had begun to decompose, posing a risk to other patients.

When the WHO carried out the evacuations so far, it observed four doctors and nurses at Nasser hospital along with about a dozen volunteers helping medical staff keep patients alive, Saparbekov said. Staff had not yet managed to reconnect the main generator.

The Gaza health ministry said there was a lack of food, drinking water and medical supplies at the complex, and that the ground floors were flooded with sewage water.

Four-and-a-half months after Israel began its campaign in Gaza in retaliation for a major Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, just 13 of the Palestinian enclave’s 34 hospitals are functioning on a partial or minimal level.

Gaza’s population of 2.3 million faces acute hunger and the spread of disease in a humanitarian crisis that aid officials describe as unprecedented.

Most Gaza residents have been displaced and are crammed into the south of the strip around Rafah, close to the border with Egypt.

Israel says Hamas, the Islamist group that has run Gaza since 2007, uses hospitals for cover. Hamas denies this and says Israel’s allegations serve as a pretext to destroy the health care system. 

West must return to imposing cost on Iran’s ‘malign activity’ to restore Mideast stability: Pompeo

West must return to imposing cost on Iran’s ‘malign activity’ to restore Mideast stability: Pompeo
Updated 23 February 2024

West must return to imposing cost on Iran’s ‘malign activity’ to restore Mideast stability: Pompeo

West must return to imposing cost on Iran’s ‘malign activity’ to restore Mideast stability: Pompeo
  • Former US Secretary of State, speaking at FII Priority Miami summit, claimed US deterrence of Iranian regime had been lost

LONDON: Taking away Iran’s ability to create instability in the Middle East was the driving force behind the 2020 Abraham Accords, and US policy needs to move back toward imposing a cost on Tehran’s malign actions, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.

The accords were agreements signed by the UAE and Bahrain to normalize relations with Israel, brokered by then-US President Donald Trump. Sudan and Morocco also later agreed to establish ties with Israel.

Pompeo told the Future Investment Initiative Priority forum in Miami that the process of formulation to signing the accords happened due to a “central thesis” held by all involved that Tehran was the “malign actor” in the region.

“You should know, I’m hopelessly biased as they’re still trying to kill me. If you see me walking around with a security team, it’s not because I enjoy it but because I still need it,” he said.

“I think that’s telling. You can see (Iran’s) hand in what happened in Gaza. They supported, funded and essentially facilitated the capacity for Hamas to carry out the barbaric attacks (on Israel) which took place on Oct. 7.

“Today, without the Iranian support you’d still have shipping through the Red Sea, instead of transit having to move some other way because you’ve got missiles being launched into (the area) with relatively good accuracy.

“Nearly all the instability that takes place in the Middle East is as a direct result of that regime in Iran. The United States had the lead in deterring them and we’ve lost that.”

Pompeo praised Saudi Aramco for stabilizing oil markets following an attack claimed by the Iran-backed Houthis on its facilities in Abqaiq-Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia, but pinpointed that attack as the beginning of the end of the US and the West being able to deter Tehran.

Despite a US drone strike that assassinated senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps official Qassem Soleimani in 2020, Pompeo said the current administration of President Joe Biden and the leadership in many European countries are now unwilling to impose a cost on Tehran for its malign activities.

“We permitted (Iran) for three years to fire rockets out of Yemen into southern Saudi Arabia and we did nothing, and that was a precursor to what I think you’re seeing today,” Pompeo added.

He said part of the solution is being serious about taking Iranian crude oil off the market and limiting revenue for the regime from that source, adding that in January 2021, Iran had $4 billion worth of foreign exchange reserves compared with $25-$30 billion today.