Monday, April 15, 2013

[Video] Palestinian refugees from Syria launch hunger strike

[Originally posted at NOW]

There is no such thing as a lucky or privileged refugee, and to contrast the sufferings of different displaced peoples is rather like choosing between cancers. At the same time, it has for some time been an inescapable conclusion that if there’s one thing worse than being a Syrian refugee in Lebanon, it’s being a Palestinian refugee from Syria in Lebanon.

As such, it’s sad but not overly surprising that a group of such Palestinians has decided to launch a hunger strike near the United Nations office in Beirut in protest at systematic under-provision of aid by the UN Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA), the body responsible for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

“Our people are sleeping on the street, we are asking for food baskets, for medication. When we go to the hospital they say we need to pay 40% of the bill, and I don’t have a penny,” says one of the strikers in the above clip. “UNRWA, who raises the slogan of freedom and human rights, are neglecting us and treating us like animals.”

Neither the scarcity of aid nor the resentment it fosters are new. As I reported in January, Syrian refugees – who are handled by a different organization, UNHCR – simply receive better benefits than Palestinians from Syria, as UNRWA itself admits. This is not, however, on account of some conspiracy or prejudice against Palestinians, but rather the problem that plagues UNHCR and UNRWA alike: money.

Back in January, UNRWA had only about half the funds necessary to cater for the 20,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria in Lebanon. As of Monday, UNRWA estimates the number is now closer to 40,000, and there is no evidence that the funding situation has improved.

It might be worth mentioning, then, that you can donate to UNRWA here.

Thanks to Yara Chehayed for translation.

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