PFLP: UNRWA crisis is being manufactured to liquidate refugees’ rights
The UN agency for the management and operation of services to refugees in the camps, UNRWA, the United Nations Relief Works Agency, is implementing unprecedented measures in its areas of operation: Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. These measures are primarily affecting important services such as education, social services and health care, and are proceeding at an accelerated pace with the adoption of a new set of decisions with an unjust impact on the basic rights of UNRWA workers, under the pretext of a serious financial crisis.
There is a deliberate and systematic creation of this crisis by UNRWA and the “international community,” in order to blackmail the Palestinian people and pressure them to accept political concessions and “solutions,” with the primary goal being the termination of the Agency’s mission through gradual imposition of austerity, and the liquidation of the cause and the rights of Palestinian refugees. This intersects with the frequent propaganda of the Zionist entity and the Zionist movement internationally about the need to end the work of UNRWA around Palestinian refugees and instead transfer responsibility for services to the host countries. These recent actions taken by UNRWA and which are anticipated in coming days form a declaration of war against the Palestinian refugees:
1) Adoption of a new set of cuts to services, particularly the proposal to postpone the school year for 4 months, even if there is availability of part of the budget, resulting in depriving the Palestinian refugee students of their right to education, as well as forcing a large number of teachers and other school workers into unemployment. Implemetation will also increase the number of students in each classroom and impose a hiring freeze on teachers.
2) Manipulation of UNRWA’s rules by the Commissioner-General, who has passed a new rule allowing him to impose exceptional mandatory leave on UNRWA workers without pay, as a plan which targets giving 22,000 teachers “holidays” without pay. Even more seriously this new rule prevents UNRWA workers from any opportunity to raise claims against the agency for redress of the violation of their rights, despite the fact that the authority for these rules is the United Nations General Assembly, not the Commissioner-General.
3) Over a five-year plan, UNRWA would provide only primary health care, which means the closure of many departments, the removal of staff and reduction of essential services to refugees, for example, dental care, physical therapy, radiology, and pharmacy services.
4) The UNRWA decision to stop recruitment in all departments except absolutely necessary, and lay off thousands of temporary contract workers.
5) The threat to delay the payment of staff salaries with the note that there is no budget for staff salaries beyond September.
6) The plan for early voluntary retirement and the freezing of the appointment of thousands of employees who applied for education exams this year.
7) The continuing administrative inconsistencies and injustices in agency budgeting for the past five years, as an example, the transfer of $50 million from the education budget to a computerized management program, and $80 million from the general budget for management development programs.
8) The use of exorbitant amounts of funds from UNRWA’s budget to fund useless projects, and exhausting the treasury by buying cars which thus impose annual maintenance and other operating costs on the agency.
We in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine emphasize that the scheme is not only aimed at depriving the Palestinian refugees from some of their services and rights, it is a definite attempt to conspire against the rights of our people, and first and foremost the right of return. We emphasize the following:
1) This is a contrived, political crisis, which is being justified by the existence of a severe financial crisis. The agency has always announced a crisis, but did not impose such cuts in critical areas like education and health. The size of the cuts and the decisions in these areas are shocking.
2) The first responsibility of UNRWA is to address the situation of refugees according to UN resolutions, and its primary mission is to provide a decent life for Palestinian refugees until the end of the occupation, away from political extortion and dictation, and it has the responsibility to work to resolve these difficulties and crises through practical solutions that uphold its responsibilities, not by transferring the crisis to Palestinian refugees.
3) We call upon the Commissioner-General to immediately cancel all decisions taken against the rights of workers, including imposing exceptional leave without pay, to open the school year on time, and to continue to provide all necessary health care services, and to renew the contracts of temporary workers and reject plans to increase the number of students in the classroom.
4) We call on the government to close the door definitively on attempts to move students out of UNRWA schools.
5) We reject any justificiation to reduce health services provided, which are to address the basic needs of refugees.
6) We call on UNRWA to not impose a hiring freeze and open hiring to meet the needs of UNRWA departments and programs.
7) We urge the immediate formation of a crisis team of the UNRWA workers’ union, the national and Islamic forces, to follow up on the refugees’ cause and report trends and actions needed to address what is happening.
8) We urge the formation of an advisory committee of legal experts and human rights institutions to review UNRWA’s policies and provide legal advice to workers on the steps to be taken by the union.
9) We call on the international community to fulfill its obligations to fully fund the UNRWA budget and cut off all justifications that the fundamental issue is the operating budget.
10) A critical solution to the budget problem is to end the mismanagement of funds, for example, hundreds of international staff contracts, an army of foreign consultants who receive large sums of money from the budget that is meant to serve Palestinian refugees.
11) We call on the masses of our people in all regions of UNRWA’s operations to take the streets and continue sit-ins and protests in an ascending and ongoing program to pressure UNRWA to back down from these actions against Palestinian refugees and to confront the plans to liquidate the refugees’ rights. In this context the PFLP calls on all to participate in the mass rally on Monday, August 10 at 11:00 am outside the main headquarters of UNRWA in Gaza.
These suspicious schemes targeting the Palestinian cause and the rights of Palestinian refugees, particularly the right to return, require us to realize the serious dimensions and consequences of these actions, which require the forces, factions and masses of our people to take immediate action and stand firm to confront these measures which aim to convert the Agency to an entity that does not provide necessary services and to deliberately end its role as witness to refugees’ situation and their right to return, which intersects with the schemes and projects of the occupation to liquidate the rights of Palestinian refugees.
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