Palestinian refugees rally in Beirut, rap UNRWA aid cuts

Hundreds of Palestinian refugees have taken to the streets in the Lebanese capital Beirut to protest against a recent aid cut by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

According to reports, demonstrators gathered outside the UNRWA headquarters in Beirut on Monday, warning that the announced cut would have substantial negative consequences for the living conditions of Palestinian refugees.

Dozens of protesters were Palestinians who had to leave Syria and reside in neighboring Lebanon due to the rising threat of Takfiri terrorism.

“We have been beggars for 67 years … Since the 1948 Nakba, we’ve been begging UNRWA and donor countries,” Abu Mohammmad Awwad, a Palestinian who fled from Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, said in reference to Israel’s eviction of Palestinians from their homeland, known as Nakba, the Arabic for catastrophe.

Awwad also stated that Palestinian refugees are encountering one Nakba after another as a result of the international community’s indifference, lamenting, “We’re always homeless.”
“We don’t want to continue to be beggars and to continue to take [food] and rent assistance,” he pointed out.

Among the participants was Abu Louay, another refugee who had to leave Yarmouk after the ISIL Takfiri terrorist group’s attack on the site in April. He currently lives in Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.

“We had our shops and work, we used to live comfortably … We came here only to witness humiliation and insult,” he said, describing the living condition in Shatila as “dire.”
Souad, a Palestinian-Syrian woman, also referred to her comfortable life in Syria before the outbreak of the foreign-backed Takfiri violence in Syria in March 2011.

“We didn’t need anything [in Syria]… Now, we run to the [food] cartons and aid,” she went on to say.

At the end of the rally, a Palestinian delegation submitted a list of the protesters’ demands to Deputy Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon John Marks, saying the agency’s cutbacks would impose serious threats to Palestinian children’s education and would also halt the construction of new camps for refugees.

The protesters also stressed that only returning to their homeland can put an end to the increasing plight of the Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA, a UN agency which was established in 1949, is tasked with providing assistance and protection to a population of some five million registered Palestine refugees.

The agency, whose budget mainly relies on voluntary contributions by donors, currently faces a budget deficit of some USD 106 million.

Both Lebanese and Palestinian officials have warned of a deteriorating humanitarian situation in the refugee camps as the UNRWA is expected to drastically scale back its services due to the budget deficit.


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