Funding shortage forces UN agency to halt housing allowance for Palestine refugees in Lebanon

22 May 2015

A $100 monthly housing stipend per family for Palestine refugees who have fled war-torn Syria for Lebanon will be suspended because of lack of funds, prompting the UN agency assisting those refugees in the Middle East to urgently appeal to donors “to provide the bare minimum assistance” to protect Palestinians from “disastrous” risks such as detention, abuse and deportation.

“Starting July 2015, more than 43,000 Palestine refugees from Syria in Lebanon who receive monthly cash assistance of $100 per family towards housing and $27 per person towards food will stop receiving the cash assistance towards housing,” the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in a press release issued in Beirut, Lebanon.

UNRWA said cash assistance for food will continue for the coming few months, but the agency has exhausted all funding to support housing assistance for Palestine refugee families in Syria.

“This assistance is the main source of income for over 95 per cent of those refugees who have little access to livelihood opportunities or any public services,” said Matthias Schmale, UNRWA Director in Lebanon.

“Among all the refugees fleeing Syria to Lebanon, Palestinian refugees are particularly vulnerable, as they have very few alternatives for service provision and suffer from restrictions on their access to the job market,” Mr. Schmale said. “Moreover, because of their uncertain legal status they are at risk of detention, abuse and deportation. The suspension of the housing assistance will be disastrous for this already vulnerable community.”

He appealed to the donor community to mobilize resources to protect Palestinians from Syria in Lebanon from “unacceptable risks.”

“Faced with the reduction in humanitarian assistance, the living conditions of the Palestine refugees from Syria are likely to become even more volatile,” the UNRWA official said.

Mr. Schmale also warned that “we might see more and more Palestine refugees fleeing this harsh reality and trying to make their way across the Mediterranean to reach Europe.”

“I appeal to the international community to enable UNRWA to provide the bare minimum assistance so the Palestine refugees can live in dignity while they await a just solution for their plight,” he said.

UNRWA, which provides direct relief and works programmes for some 5 million Palestine refugees in the Middle East region, works closely with partners to mobilize resources for a scaled up humanitarian response in support of Palestine refugees from Syria in Lebanon as well as the Palestinian communities who were already in Lebanon before the Syria crisis.

The agency has appealed to donors to increase support through its Call for Funds seeking an immediate injection of $30 million. So far, the UNRAW Syria Crisis Appeal has received only 21 per cent of the funds needed for 2015 and chronic underfunding for humanitarian interventions in Syria continues to undermine the agency's capacity to sustain life-saving emergency interventions.


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