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October 2, 2015 5:37 am

Europe Gives More Money to UNRWA as Part of Its Solution to Migrant Crisis

avatar by Jonathan Benedek / Tazpit News Agency

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Students at a UNRWA School in Gaza, in 2011. Photo: UN / Shareef Sarhan.

Students at a UNRWA School in Gaza, in 2011. Photo: UN / Shareef Sarhan.

Against the backdrop of the current refugee crisis that has swamped Europe, the European Union announced on September 30 that it will be providing more financial assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), an organization that provides support for Palestinian refugees living within and around Israel.

“This is an investment in their future and at the same time an investment in the stability in Europe’s neighborhood,” said Commission for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn. “This additional contribution will also allow UNRWA to bridge its financing gap in 2015 and to move forward in the implementation of its reform process.”

The assistance package, which increases the total amount of E.U. support for UNRWA this year to 125 million euros, comes as part of an agreement that was signed between Hahn and UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl. The extra money will be allocated for many of the services provided by UNRWA, such as education and healthcare.

Ten million euros have already been set aside for UNRWA’s education and healthcare services in Syria, where at least 480,000 Palestinian refugees live. The immediate assistance to Palestinian refugees in Syria is meant, at least partially, to contain the growing trend of the thousands of refugees who have been leaving the conflict-ridden countries in the Middle East for Europe.

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Krähenbühl welcomed the agreement with the E.U. “This important and generous contribution from the E.U. means that we will be able to overcome our funding shortfall for the year, allowing us to concentrate our efforts on ensuring the long-term financial stability of UNRWA, so that our core programs are never again put at risk,” he said. “I am deeply grateful for this latest commitment from the E.U., which has long been a valued and reliable partner of UNRWA in providing for the needs of Palestine refugees. This support is crucial in ensuring that Palestine refugees will continue to have access to quality education, healthcare and life-saving services until a just solution for their plight is achieved.”

Hahn affirmed the E.U.’s role as an important partner of UNRWA. “The E.U. is the largest and most reliable donor to UNRWA in its invaluable work with Palestinian refugees, providing them with access to primary education, health and social services, even under very harsh conditions,” he said.

UNRWA, which is primarily funded by contributions from U.N. member states, was established in 1949 to carry out relief and work programs for Palestinians who lost or fled their homes during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. Only Palestinians who were residents in the British Mandate of Palestine between June 1, 1946, and and May 15, 1948, can apply for eligibility as refugees. Descendants of such refugees, as well as adopted children, also receive refugee status.

The E.U. has been providing UNRWA with financial support since 1971. Between 2007 and 2014, the E.U. gave UNRWA more than 1 billion euros, 809 million of which was set aside for core programs and services. The agreement reached this week continues this long-standing relationship.

Along with UNRWA’s support for Palestinian refugees in Syria, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) provides aid and assistance for the more than 4 million Syrians who became refugees as a result of the civil war in Syria. Unlike UNRWA, which deals specifically with Palestinians, the UNHCR is a separate organization serving refugees all over the world. The UNHCR was established in 1950, a year after UNRWA, in the wake of the refugee crisis resulting from World War II.

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