3rd Thursday Action Alert: Urge the Biden Administration to support Palestinian refugees through UNRWA

3rd Thursday Action Alert: Urge the Biden Administration to support Palestinian refugees through UNRWA

June 20 is World Refugee Day.  According to the United Nations, there are now more than 110 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes and communities worldwide.  The war in Ukraine has contributed to the total, which is the highest in recorded human history.  Palestinian refugees are among the largest and oldest refugee population, with more than 5.9 million registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  Many of these still live in refugee camps in the Middle East that were set up in the late 1940s to care for the 750,000 Palestinians who were displaced and dispossessed in the Nakba (or “catastrophe) in 1948.

The rights of Palestinian refugees are enshrined in United Nations Resolution 194 (1948), which states that “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.”  To date, these rights have not been accorded to Palestinian refugees.  

UNRWA, established in 1949, continues to serve those still living and their descendants through the provision of essential services such as education and health care, as well as jobs.

In fiscal year (FY) 2012, the US contributed $400 million to support UNRWA.  By FY 2019, US allocations diminished to zero.  The Biden Administration has increased US support, in 2022, to $344 million, but in 2023 only $206.8 million so far.

35 House members, led by Rep. André Carson, sent a letter in March to the leadership of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, urging an increase in US support to UNRWA to the FY 2017 level ($359.3 million), as well as other humanitarian aid to meet basic needs in the West Bank and Gaza.  Earlier this month, the US committed $153.7 million to support UNRWA, but that is not enough to meet the needs of the refugee community.  Of the estimated $300 million in new funds needed – in an overall worldwide appeal of $1.6 billion – only $107 million have been raised.

As we approach World Refugee Day next week, take a moment to urge the Administration to increase the US contribution to UNRWA to help cover the shortage of funding so that Palestinian refugees can receive the services they need, even as they hope that their rights will someday be respected.