The young men and young women participants were provided with the opportunity to assess the current situation of Palestinian refugee camps.
The Effects of the COVID-19 Crisis in Palestinian Refugee Camps
The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development— REFORM implemented a public debate on the electronic app, ZOOM, entitled: “The Future of Palestinian Refugee Camps post the Coronavirus” with the participation of Mr. Ahmad Hanoun, Director-General of Refugee Affairs Department of the PLO, Mr. Ahmad Thouqan, a member of the Executive Office of Refugees in the West Bank and Chairman of the Popular Committee of Balata camp, and Mr. Naser Damaj, a Palestinian writer and historian, as well as a number of young social and political activists.
The participants discussed Palestinian national mechanisms and plans intended to mitigate the effects of the pandemic in Palestinian refugee camps located in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the responsibilities of the international community towards Palestinian camps in light of UNRWA’s cut in aid, and the camps’ needs for official interventions post-COVID-19 crisis.
The facilitator, Dr. Ra’ed Al-Dub’I, began the discussion by providing a simple overview of the number of Palestinian refugees in the world, in general, and Palestine, in particular. Then, he affirmed that the issue of Palestinian refugees is a painful reality, in which they are awaiting a solution in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions, especially the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 that states: “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”
Rights of Palestinian Refugees
This public debate provided the participants with the opportunity to assess the current situation of the camps in the framework of the services it receives and to take into account possible future scenarios. On a similar note, the speakers stressed that although this pandemic posed a great and real challenge for the Palestinians who live in refugee camps, the Popular Committees for Refugees were able to limit the spread of COVID-19. Thus, they praised the role that these Committees played, as they provided basic needs and supplies for Palestinian families in the camps. The speakers further expressed that the only U.S. goal in cutting UNRWA funding is its complicity with Israeli schemes to dissolve the cause of the Palestinian refugees.
At the end of the debate, the young men and young women participants as well as the guest speakers proposed numerous recommendations to improve the reality of Palestinian refugees. They stressed the importance of launching a campaign on the rights of Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian camps in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. It was suggested that this campaign should target the international community, and be organized by the Refugee Affairs Department of PLO and the Popular Committees for Refugees in various areas, in cooperation with a group of national institutions and Palestinian civil society institutions. Additionally, they recommended communicating with the UNRWA to urge it to conduct its responsibilities towards the Palestinian refugees despite the financial constraints it is currently encountering. Additionally, a Palestinian plan must be developed to guarantee the rule of international law and international legal decisions regarding the issue of refugees. The facilitator concluded the debate by emphasizing that the issue of Palestinian refugees must remain on the international community’s agenda and that UNRWA is legally and morally responsible for Palestinian refugees.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
This session came as part of the “Access Beyond Barriers” project which aims to enhance the social participation of marginalised groups in order to formulate public policies that are responsive to youth and women’s needs. The project also aims to enhance cooperation between youth groups and CBOs in Area C and in Palestinian refugee camps and to develop the internal procedures and practices of these associations in order to ensure good governance practices. Thus, social and cultural cohesion will be increased amongst the different social components and collective Palestinian identity will be promoted.