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Interview: Senior UN official calls for urgent aid to Palestinian refugees in Syria

English.news.cn   2013-03-15 06:07:24            

by Stephanie Parker

UNITED NATIONS, March 14 (Xinhua) -- A senior UN official has placed an urgent appeal to the international community to provide assistance to the Palestinian refugees living in Syria, where the current violence and armed conflicts have made it harder for UN humanitarian workers to reach these refugees.

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Fillippo Grandi, general commissioner of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA), talked about the impact of the current Syrian political crisis, which broke out in March 2011 and later developed into violence and armed conflicts, on the lives of Palestinian refugees living in Syria.

"The Syrian crisis is very complex and has a lot of complicated elements," he said.

One "complication" of this crisis is the refugee population who have been living in Middle East countries, such as Syria, Lebanon and Jordan over the past 60 years, under the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 8, 1949.

The UN resolution, adopted following the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1948, also approved the establishment of the UNWRA, which is tasked with carrying out activities and relief work effectively for Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1947 conflict.

However, the two-year-old deadly crisis in Syria has turned increasingly brutal and created a compounded list of issues for both the Palestinian refugees and the UNWRA.

Consequently, "some have threats to their lives and the Palestinian refugees share this terrible fate of the civilian population in Syria," he said.

"However, they have an increased vulnerability because they are refugees they are not people from Syria," the said general commissioner.

"In situations like this, although over the decades they have been treated very well in Syria, the situation of crisis, the vulnerability of groups like the refugees is more evident than what happens in other civilian groups," he said.

"It is never easy to become a refugee, you have to leave behind everything, cross dangerous areas and cross borders that are often full of obstacles," he said.

Grandi told a press conference here Monday that the ongoing Syrian violence has made it harder for his agency and other international humanitarian groups to reach the Palestinian refugees in Syria.

"The dividing lines, the zones of control are extremely fluid and to operate convoys and movements of staff and people and goods through this shifting lines is extremely complicated and dangerous, " he told Xinhua.

"When the conflict started and increasingly so now, we have to provide services in addition to humanitarian assistance, more of an emergency nature like food, cash, blankets or other goods that are needed for people to survive," he said.

Prior to this, "our key work in Syria for Palestinian refugees is education in schools," he said. "We have 118 schools in Syria."

Apart from education, the UNWRA also provides health and other relief activities, he said.

Before the outbreak of the bloody conflict between armed opposition forces and the government troops in Syria two years ago, there was an approximate population of 530,000 Palestinian refugees.

"A third or 150,000 lived in an area called Yarmouk," a suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus and home to most of the Palestinian refugees in Syria, he said.

"Unfortunately only about 20,000 are left inside that area and those who have fled have gone to other places in Syria and some of them have managed to reach Lebanon," he said.

Now the focus is "not to develop but to survive and that is the challenge," he said.

"But that is not the ultimate solution of the refugee question, " Grandi said. "They can be taken out of this plight only by virtue of a political agreement," which means "a political settlement between Palestinians and Israelis that tackles every aspect of their conflict -- Jerusalem, land, resources, security and refugees," he said.

"So, that is the only thing that can take them out of this plight through the identification and implementation of a solution that respects their rights and satisfies some of their long- standing requests to readdress injustice," he said. "That is a set of opportunities we are giving people pending that political solution."

In the end, the refugees of Palestinian descent are the "ones that should not be forgotten in both political terms, in terms of human rights and protection," he said.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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