“Sixty-five percent of the refugees are under 25, are marginalized, desperate and frustrated by the lack of a just solution,” says Christofer Gunness, from UNRWA.
Regional vulnerability has always existed here but in recent years has exploded with the crisis in Syria and Iraq, the expansion of the Islamic State and instability and crises in countries such as Yemen, Libya, Egypt and others in the area.
In the case of the Palestinians, this vulnerability “is added to several other layers of vulnerability that were already there, because they are dispossessed and exiled for so long.”
“This year more than ever the Palestinian refugees do not feel they have a home, a safe place anywhere. And that is leading many to risk their lives and those of their children. They crawl on boats to escape their situation,” says Christofer Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
“On paper it is very clear what has to happen: they have to give them a viable state and a just solution to their right of return,” which could, for example, mean that there is a pact so that there is compensation but that, in any case, “it must be a solution agreed by the parties”. Today there are more than five million Palestinian refugees registered with the UN.
According to Gunness, it is necessary for the international community to find a solution to the more than five million refugees that are trying to leave their own land due to war conditions and points out that thousands of them are being forced to undertake exile due to increased violence in the region.
“The Palestinian refugees have been in a state of dispossession and exile for 67 years pending a political solution,” said Gunness, the most visible face of UNRWA, which calls “political actors to resolve what can only be described as a time bomb. “
“Sixty-five percent of the refugees are under 25, are marginalized, desperate and frustrated by the lack of a just solution and, in the current climate of the Middle East, with so many people standing up against governments and revolting themselves in various ways, the revolts are part of the fuel that could catch fire suddenly with very alarming and dramatic consequences, “he explained.
The increasingly adverse situation in the region has given rise to new phenomena among Palestinian refugees. Some, escaping the war in Syria, have come back from exile and ended up in the Gaza Strip, while others have gone to sea in boats to try to reach European shores.
“For Europeans it is important to realize that with the increasing regional vulnerability, the Palestinians find it difficult to achieve security and dignity in the Middle East, which increasingly means they will cross dangerous areas taken by rebels and risk their lives at sea to get to Europe,” said Gunness.
Europeans “will have to decide whether to provide an on-site solutions in the Middle East, including through a properly funded UNRWA, or if they want to deal with the Palestinians when they reach Europe.”
Refugees beyond Gaza
The refugee epidemic is not limited to the Palestinians. There are half a million lives affected in Syria, of which 45,000 have fled to Lebanon and 15,000 to Jordan. A total of 750,000 are in the West Bank and 1.2 million in Gaza.
“In Syria people suffer from siege. The same happens in Yarmuk, where starvation takes place in seven of the twelve Syrian camps that are severely affected by the conflict and where people live under a blockade since January. As a consequence, children have died due to the cold weather and those are managed tp stay alive live in absolute hopelessness…
In that place, there is no prospect of employment, there are power outages, no decent access to water and one of the houses destroyed one year after the conflict has not been rebuilt,” said Gunness.
In the West Bank people “live with the daily humiliation of the excesses of the occupation: the violence of Israeli soldiers, the demolition of their homes, grandchildren see their grandparents humiliated at military posts, the expansion of settlements, and as if that wasn’t enough, Palestinians have to deal with violence committed by settlers” .
While in Lebanon people “are excluded from many professions”, in Jordan “state schools are under threat of terror, so nobody wants to send their children there,” he added. “But the most important fact is that no one wants to be a refugee. Everyone wants a place to call home,” he reflected.
After so many years, the refugee camps are no longer tents but many have become slums with streets so narrow that you can touch the sides of the houses with open arms: they need light, air and suffer the problems of overcrowding, social exclusion and, some drug abuse and violence.
“It is outrageous that lack of political decisions allow this in the XXI century. It is absurd that these people are subject to ignominy and humiliation. In Gaza, there were 80,000 people in need of food aid in 2000 and now there are more than 860,000. It has increased eleven times,” laments Gunness.
“I do not think it’s in the interests of nobody, and certainly not Israel, to have about two million people blocked and desperate,” he says, adding that the Gaza economy could flourish Israel allowed it.
The spokesman said that UNRWA, which spends between 30 and 35 million dollars a month to care for the refugees is in a crisis of liquidity and funding, with a deficit of 101 million dollars, the organization will run out of money by September.
“We regret that our existence after 65 years as this existence is the symbol of failure, the failure of the international community to reach a just solution for the Palestinian refugees,” he laments. Gunness remembers that until a solution is not reached, the number of refugees and their situation will grow worse.
Luis R. Miranda is an award-winning journalist and the founder and editor-in-chief at The Real Agenda. His career spans over 18 years and almost every form of news media. His articles include subjects such as environmentalism, Agenda 21, climate change, geopolitics, globalisation, health, vaccines, food safety, corporate control of governments, immigration and banking cartels, among others. Luis has worked as a news reporter, on-air personality for Live and Live-to-tape news programs. He has also worked as a script writer, producer and co-producer on broadcast news. Read more about Luis.