10 Facts About Palestine Refugees
The Arab-Israeli conflict has continued for more than 65 years. The absence of a Palestinian state has led to major difficulties in providing aid for their refugees. Palestine refugees differ from other refugee populations in the world and have a unique status as a result. In order to understand the struggle of refugees involved in this conflict, consider these 10 facts about Palestine refugees:

1. One in three refugees is Palestinian.

There are nearly 7.2 million Palestine refugees worldwide. The number of Palestinian refugees is nearly double that of Syrian refugees (3.8 million).

2. There are three main groups of Palestinian refugees.

The largest group is comprised of Palestinians who were displaced in 1948. Another major group are those who were displaced from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967. The third group refers to internally displaced Palestinians.

Internally displaced refugees include both: Palestinians who remained in areas that later became the state of Israel, and Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who lost their homes due to demolition, revocation of residency rights or the construction of Israeli settlements.

3. There is a specific U.N. relief organization for Palestine refugees.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) began operations in 1950. All other refugee populations worldwide are protected by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

4. There are specific criteria for qualifying for UNRWA assistance.

The UNRWA provides aid for Palestine refugees who “lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The other primary groups of refugees do not qualify for aid under the UNRWA mandate.

5. Palestinians are one of the only populations whose descendants also qualify as refugees.

As a result of Palestinian descendants gaining refugee status, there are currently 5 million refugees who qualify for UNRWA services. When the UNRWA began operations, the agency responded to the needs of only 750,000 Palestinian refugees.

6. There are 58 UNRWA recognized Palestine refugee camps.

There are 58 official and six unofficial refugee camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

One-third of the registered Palestine refugees live in refugee camps. Camps typically have poor socioeconomic conditions, are extremely overcrowded and lack adequate roads and sewer systems.

7. Palestine refugee camps in Gaza comprise one of the highest population densities in the world.

More than half a million Palestine refugees live in the eight recognized refugee camps in Gaza. The number of refugees in the area continues to rise due to wars and bombings. Over 70 percent of Gaza’s total population are refugees.

8. Jordan has the most Palestinian refugees of any country.

There are over 2 million registered Palestine refugees living in Jordan. The number of refugees living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank combined is fewer than the amount living in Jordan.

9. Palestine refugees are granted citizenship in Jordan.

Jordan is the only host country that has granted Palestinian refugees full citizenship rights. Other host countries have been known to bar Palestinians from basic rights, such as health and educational services.

10. No Palestinian has ever lost their refugee status.

Palestinian refugees have been refused the right to return to their place of origin; Israeli officials have declared that such a right is not legitimate. The number of Palestine refugees has increased by more than six times the amount originally accounted for in 1948. This is a result of Palestinians being able to retain their refugee status.

These 10 facts about Palestine refugees are by no means an exhaustive list, however, it offers insight into the current situation. Palestinians are the largest and longest-standing group of refugees in the world. Palestinian refugees have suffered for over six decades and will continue to suffer until their basic needs and rights are met.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Pixabay

UNRWA Funding Gap May Prevent Palestinian Students from Going to School
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency was set to run out of money in September due to a $100 million funding gap. As of Aug. 19, $70 million in last-minute donations were reported from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, the U.S., Britain and Sweden. As a result, the funding gap is now $22 million but luckily, services will continue.

The last minute donations came right before the school year is about to start, averting the closure of 700 schools that educate half a million children. The schools have already been forced to increase their class size from 38 to 43. UNRWA already had cut 85 percent of its short-term contracts with international consultants.

As of July, the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees was facing its biggest funding crisis since it started in 1948, which would have led to a hold in the school year and not being able to help the displaced people in Yarmouk camp near Damascus.

UNRWA receives most of its funding from a small number of donors, primarily the U.S., Saudi Arabia, E.U. and the U.K. Just Syria needs $415 million and UNRWA only has 27 percent of that. Why is the funding gap so wide, one may ask?

According to UNRWA’s commissioner general, Pierre Krahenbruhl, “Palestinian refugees are facing their most severe situation since 1948. They have had 50 years of occupation, nine years of a blockade in Gaza and now five years of conflict in Syria. When you look at all of that, how much more can they absorb?”

He spoke with The Guardian about how the four year war in Syria, siege of Yarmouk, and continuous blockade of Gaza has all led to the depletion of UNRWA’s finances and Palestinians facing the greatest crisis since the Arab-Israeli war in 1948.

In the past four years, about 60,000 Palestinians have left Syria and joined long-term refugees who have lived in camps in Jordan and Lebanon for decades.

Krahenbuhl has gone to the E.U. and U.K. government to secure funding. He believes young people without school will leave them susceptible to radicalization, given the instability in the region. He also believes many refugees may try to migrate to Europe.

UNRWA works with 600,000 Palestinians still in Syria, 2 million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, 1.2 million in Gaza, 700,000 in West Bank, and 300,000 in Lebanon. UNRWA is doing great work for people that are in dire circumstances, so one would think it could receive more donations from more donors.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: Seattle Pi, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

The United Nations is in the midst of its most severe funding crisis to date and the amount of people affected by it is continuing to rise.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is one of the UN agencies most heavily affected by a lack of funding. After a recent emergency meeting conducted by its Advisory Commission, the UNRWA said that “drastic measures” would have to be taken if the current deficit of $101 million couldn’t be funded before the upcoming school year.

If the deficit is not met, the academic year could be delayed for over half a million students in the middle east across nearly 700 schools. The UN stresses, however, that there is still enough funding available to provide “immunizations for children, primary health care, relief and sanitation and some emergency programmes” through the end of 2015.

The UN has also stated that from September and on it can’t ensure the stability of those resources.

“Education lies at the very heart of the identity and dignity of Palestine refugees and of what UNRWA stands for,” says a UNRWA press release concerning the issue. “Our schools also provide a measure of stability in a very unstable region. Possible delays in opening the school year would also have grave implications for host governments.”

These budget cuts also have a serious effect on Palestinian refugees currently living in the Gaza Strip. Children who attend school in the region received $20 cash vouchers until very recently, when that service stopped entirely along with free meals provided at schools.

Coupled with additional UNRWA assistance is often what families depend on. Continuing to cut these services could have severely life-altering consequences.

“Our conditions worsen every day,” Bilal Mekdad, a Gaza Strip refugee, told the Anadolu Agency. “We fear the day we will find ourselves in the street.”

Alexander Jones

Sources: Anadolu Agency, UN 1, UN 2
Photo: Anadolu Agency