Refugees paint the buildings of the community centers blue and raise the UNRWA flag

Palestinian refugees to UNRWA: We are standing here behind this last wall


Iman Abu Khairan a community activist from Al-Baqa'a camp for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, is trying to deliver a message to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), and she said as the poet Mahmoud Darwish said, "We are standing here behind this last wall."


Iman is one of dozens of women and activists in the 13 Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, who organized themselves in a community initiative to reject "UNRWA's" attempts to abandon its responsibilities towards 24 centers, including 14 centers for women's programs and 10 centers for community rehabilitation for the disabled.


Women's centers and centers for people with disabilities and their families have been established under the auspices of UNRWA since the fifties of the last century. In the past years, UNRWA moved to abandon them, not fund them, and not provide the necessary papers that show their support for them and enable them to open bank accounts, license vehicles, sign certificates, and other procedural matters.


Raise the UNRWA flag


In order to put pressure on the agency, Palestinian refugees within the community campaign carried out a series of sit-ins to demand that UNRWA remain as an official legal umbrella for community centers, and to provide the necessary facilities for the continuity of the work of the centers in terms of technical, financial and administrative support. Recently, refugees in the camps painted the centers blue and raised the UNRWA flag over the buildings to establish its relationship by proxy.


Iman Abu Khairan, who is involved in a community campaign to defend the survival of the centers, says, "We organized ourselves to defend the existence of these centers through committees belonging to the Higher Coordinating Committee of 28 people who elect 5 people to negotiate with UNRWA. In the centers, we provide important community services such as kindergartens that serve each one." 120 children and the centers also provide services for women in terms of training, rehabilitation and legal advice, not to mention the care of people with disabilities, these centers are the safe space for women in the camps.

She continued, in an interview with "Arabi 21", "UNRWA began to gradually withdraw from these centers. At the beginning, there was an employee affiliated with the agency in these centers, but he was withdrawn and replaced by a non-resident social worker, as was the annual support and materials through the agency, and in 2011 the agency stopped supporting The financial institution and its replacement with conditionally funded projects, and UNRWA also returned to withdraw the social researcher, and the matter did not stop here. UNRWA amended the internal regulations of the centers, then refused to accredit them, and this stood as an obstacle to obtaining support and projects and not activating accounts in banks

Because of UNRWA's failure to respond to the centers' demands, refugees raised the agency's flag above the centers' buildings and painted it blue to put it in front of its responsibilities. At the same time to send a message that the decision to abandon these centers is not your decision

Red line

In turn, the Director General of the Department of Palestinian Affairs, Engineer Rafiq Kharfan, refused, to transfer the tasks of these centers under the umbrella of the Ministry of Social Development, saying, "We discussed this issue with UNRWA and the community and women's centers in the camps, which provide an important community rehabilitation service. This is an old problem." .. UNRWA says that it established these centers and that it must continue unilaterally away from its umbrella. UNRWA has repeatedly tried to make these centers register under the umbrella of the Ministry of Social Development. For the Jordanian government, this matter is completely rejected and a red line

He continues, "Despite all the attempts and pressures of the donor countries and their willingness to sponsor these centers, our position was clear. These centers were established by UNRWA and they must remain under its umbrella. There is no discussion on this issue. For two years we have been trying to bridge the views between UNRWA and the centers in the camps. Unfortunately, after two years, we have not reached a conclusion, and the case is still pending


UNRWA provides health, education, social and rehabilitation services to about five million Palestinian refugees residing in the five areas of operations, namely Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and about 42 percent of them reside in Jordan in 13 camps


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