Palestinian refugees unseen victims of Syrian and Israeli wars

May 4, 2013
Sarah Benton
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The Badawi refugee camp in Lebanon

Palestinian refugees displaced in ever greater numbers by Syrian violence, says UN agency

Media release from UN news centre
April 30, 2013

Increasing numbers of Palestinian refugees in Syria are being killed, injured or displaced amid the intensifying violence in the Middle Eastern country, a United Nations agency warned today as it appealed to all sides to resolve the conflict through dialogue and political negotiations.

According to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA), an estimated 235,000 Palestinians inside Syria have been displaced by the two-year conflict, with Palestinian refugee camps directly affected by the escalating violence.

In a statement released today, UNRWA confirmed the additional displacement of some 6,000 Palestinians from the Ein El Tal refugee camp, located 12 kilometres north of Syrian city of Aleppo, after armed groups overran the camp and declared it a military zone. Mortars and small arms were reportedly used in the assault, damaging numerous refugee homes and contributing to dozens of fatalities and injuries.

“Ein El Tal is the latest manifestation of a cycle of catastrophic violence in which the conduct of all parties has transformed Palestine refugee camps into theatres of conflict in which heavy weapons are used, resulting in severe suffering for Palestinian civilians,” the UNRWA news release stated.

“UNRWA’s response efforts are continuing amidst reports that significant numbers of the displaced refugees may be trapped without adequate shelter in rural areas around Aleppo where intense armed conflict continues to rage,” the UN agency continued.

In the wake of this latest incident, UNRWA reported that its Aleppo office was rolling out “rapid arrangements” to provide food and cash assistance to those displaced, adding that significant numbers of refugees from Ein El Tal may be trapped without adequate shelter in rural areas around Aleppo where intense armed conflict continues to rage.

As the fighting in Syria enters its second year, the Palestinian refugee population there has not been spared. Five Palestinian children were killed in early March when they were caught by incoming gunfire and shelling. The previous month, 12 Palestinian refugees were killed by heavy weaponry in the Damascus suburb of Yarmouk; five of them were members of the same family.

Following that incident, UNRWA cautioned that the Palestinian refugees were unable to move around safely and faced severe restrictions owing to escalating threats from shelling and armed clashes, exacerbating vulnerabilities that existed prior to the Syrian conflict.

According to statistics released by UNRWA earlier this year, most Palestinian refugees in Syria now rely on the Agency as their sole means of support. Several UNRWA schools in the country are currently acting as a last place of refuge for 9,000 people, while tens of thousands languish under harsh conditions in neighbouring countries. Moreover, some 20,000 people have fled to the over-crowded refugee camps of Lebanon.

The UN agency recalled that the events at Ein El Tal mirrored the “tragic experience” of other Palestinian refugee camps – Dera’a Camp, Yarmouk in Damascus City and Husseiniyeh, Khan Eshieh, Sbeineh, and Seida Zaynab Camps in the wider Damascus area – and urged all sides to the conflict to halt fighting in civilian areas.

“While continuing to respond to humanitarian crises affecting Palestinians in Syria, UNRWA condemns the conduct of armed conflict in civilian areas, and the failure of all parties to safeguard the safety and lives of Syrian and Palestinian civilians,” the agency stressed.

“UNRWA urgently appeals to all sides to halt the human suffering caused by the conflict in Syria, and to resolve their differences through dialogue and political negotiations.”

1267 Palestinian martyrs since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution

By Palestinian Information Centre
May 2, 2013

DAMASCUS– The Working Group for Palestinian Refugees in Syria confirmed that nearly 1267 Palestinian refugees were martyred in Syria while tens of thousands were displaced since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution.

The Working Group called on UNRWA to intervene to stop the continued conflict in Syria that led to a real humanitarian disaster, noting that the Palestinian refugees are subjected to heinous crimes where 235 thousands refugees were displaced in Syria.

The Group expressed, in a statement on Thursday, its concern towards the displacement of about 6000 Palestinian refugees on April 26 from Ein el-Tal refugee camp in Aleppo in northern Syria.

The Group’s reporter confirmed the martyrdom of 4 Palestinian refugees in Syria in light of the continued shelling on Palestinian camps.

Al-A’adin Palestinian refugee camp was subjected to shelling where several injuries were reported, while the Syrian regime forces have stormed the camp looking for “wanted” amid intensive fire.

In al-Sabina refugee camp, the shelling targeted al-Khodra market, no one was injured. The reporter pointed out to the food and fuel shortage in the camp.

A state of tension and panic prevailed in Khan al-Sheikh refugee camp after a rocket landed in the camp causing a huge fire. The camp still suffers food shortage and power and communication outages.

Yarmouk refugee camp is still witnessing difficult living conditions due to the continued siege imposed by the regime army, led to food and fuel shortage and lack of medicines.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

Briefing from UNRWA

Around 455,000 refugees are registered with UNRWA in Lebanon, with many living in the country’s 12 refugee camps.

Palestine refugees make up an estimated ten per cent of Lebanon, a small country which is now densely populated.

Palestine refugees in Lebanon do not enjoy several basic human rights, for example, they do not have the right to work in as many as 20 professions. Palestine refugees are not formally citizens of another state, so they are not able to claim the same rights as other foreigners living and working in Lebanon.

Facts and figures
436,154 registered refugees
12 camps
68 schools, with 32,213 pupils
Two vocational and technical training centres
28 primary health centres
One community rehabilitation centre
Nine women’s programme centres
(Figures as of 1 January 2012)

Palestine refugees in Lebanon face a number of specific problems:

 lack of social and civil rights
 no access to public social services
 very limited access to public health or educational facilities.

Most refugees rely entirely on UNRWA as the sole provider of education, health and relief and social services.

The refugees’ major concern is the cost of hospitalisation. UNRWA provides basic primary healthcare, but is only able to cover the cost of secondary hospital care and partial tertiary care.

Since these costs are beyond the means of most refugees, they often face a choice between foregoing essential medical treatment and falling deeply into debt.

Palestine refugees are subject to many employment restrictions that have left them highly dependent on UNRWA as their main relief provider and major employer. In 2005, officially registered Palestine refugees born in Lebanon were allowed by law to work in the clerical and administrative sectors for the first time. However, refugees are still unable to work in some professions, for example, as doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers or accountants.

The refugee workforce is substantially underemployed. Although many do find work, this is often seasonal or casual work for low wages and with no social and welfare benefits.

There are distinct signs that this situation is weakening the community’s commitment to education. Many young people see no purpose in continuing their study. Some drop out and find manual work in order to support their families. (Working group, Committee for Employment of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon website)

Refugee “gatherings”
Many refugees live in “gatherings”, often located near official camps and on private land. While UNRWA provides direct services to registered and non-registered refugees, whether they live inside or outside official camps, the Agency cannot construct shelters or rehabilitate the infrastructure in the “gatherings” as these areas lie outside its official camps. Nor can UNRWA provide services such as solid waste disposal to these communities, because they fall under the responsibility of local municipalities.

Palestinian refugee statistics

Country…..No. camps….Refugees….Total registered persons

Jordan…. ..10 ……….2,034,641 …..2,110,114
Lebanon…. 15. ……….441,543 …….474,053
Syria……… ..9 …………499,189…… 528,711
West Bank .19 …………741,409……. 895,703
Gaza Strip. 8……….. 1,203,135 …..1,263,312
Agency total 61 4,919,917

Figures as of 31 December 2012

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