Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk camp queue for food in 2014 (Image source: UNRWA)

Petition: Protect Palestinian Refugees from Syria

PNN/Jerusalem

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is asking for help from the international community to sign a petition urging British Richard Harrington MP, who happens to be the responsible for the UK humanitarian help to the Syrian refugees, to ensure that Palestinians are not left out of the UK’s humanitarian response to the Syria crisis.

The petitions follows:

“Dear Rt Hon Richard Harrington MP

Nearly half of the 560,000 Palestinian refugees registered in Syria before the start of the devastating civil war have lost their homes. Three thousand have been killed, and over a hundred thousand have fled to countries like Lebanon and Jordan. Many have even attempted the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to seek safety in Europe.

Even before the Syria crisis began, UNRWA services for Palestinians were stretched by a funding deficit, especially in neighbouring Lebanon. As these double-displaced Palestinian refugees are unable to register for UNHCR services or resettlement programmes, they represent one of the most vulnerable groups affected by the conflict.

We call on the UK government to ensure that its humanitarian response to the conflict in Syria provides equal protection for all refugees, including Palestinians, by:

  • Ensuring Palestinian refugees from Syria have full and equal access to humanitarian assistance, including resettlement programmes;
  • Providing additional support to UNRWA to fill its financial deficit, and ensuring that humanitarian agencies have sufficient resources to deal with the unprecedented and growing need, and;
  • Providing vital international leadership to encourage other donor countries to meet their humanitarian responsibilities at this time of crisis.”

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According to MAP, before the conflict in Syria began in March 2011 around 560,000 registered Palestinian refugees lived in the country. Following five years of civil war, more than half of these people have lost their homes, and nearly all are in dire need of aid. Over 3,000 Palestinians have died inside Syria.

The situation is particularly dire in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, which has been almost continuously besieged since 2013. In April 2015, ISIS-linked militants invaded large areas of the camp, forcing out and killing many of its civilian inhabitants.

Local activist groups estimate that approximately 3,000 people remain in the camp, without access to regular food supplies, clean water or healthcare.

An estimated 110,000 Palestinians have fled Syria since 2011 according to UNRWA. Approximately 17,000 of these people now live Jordan and around 45,000 in Lebanon, many in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Palestinian refugees cannot register with UNHCR and instead rely on UNRWA for healthcare, education and often food and basic income. However UNRWA is struggling with a significant shortfall in funding from international donors, and in 2015 was forced to suspend the rent support payments it provided to these refugees due to lack of funds.