EuroMed Rights calls for EU counterweight to support Palestinian refugees

Europe, Israel / OPT, Statement

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In the context of tomorrow’s Ministerial Conference in Rome, EuroMed Rights welcomes ongoing efforts to mobilise both political and financial support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). All attempts to restrict UNRWA’s funding have an immediate effect on Palestinians’ rights, notably the Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA is providing critical assistance to over five million Palestinian refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The US unprecedented cuts have immediately deteriorated the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, where two thirds of the population are refugees. After a decade-long comprehensive closure, the Gaza Strip has been kept on the brink of a humanitarian disaster with swiftly worsening conditions since the beginning of 2017. Similarly, devastating consequences for Palestinian refugees’ basic rights are expected to follow throughout the region.

These US politically motivated cuts to UNRWA funding must be seen in its wider context. In the wake of President Trump’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, this came as another milestone to break the international consensus on Israel/Palestine. Furthermore, these developments are giving the Government of Israel the green light to introduce additional “facts on the ground” in the occupied East Jerusalem, advance annexation in its legislation as regards the rest of the West Bank, and maintain a widespread clampdown on human rights organisations.

As EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn has recently stressed at the European Parliament, “any solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict will need to include an agreed just and fair solution to the refugee question.” EuroMed Rights welcomes the EU and Member States’ commitment to continuing to assist UNRWA in securing its financial resources. However, as the largest multilateral donor to Palestinian refugees, they should promote strong political support to UNRWA’s efforts. Only a proactive EU counterweight in defence of international law will help Palestinians fully realise their human rights and fundamental freedoms.