ARDD publishes position paper on Palestinian refugees in times of COVID-19 in Jordan, Lebanon, Occupied Palestine & Syria
The Global Network of Experts on the Question of Palestine at The Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) sent a message of solidarity on the 53rd anniversary of Al Naksa Day in the form of a position paper on the impact of COVID-19 on the conditions of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Occupied Palestine and Syria.
The paper sheds light on the of available regional and country-specific facts that indicate that COVID-19 is aggravating the humanitarian conditions and vulnerability of circa 5.6 million Palestinian refugees currently registered in Jordan, Lebanon, occupied Palestine (Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem) and Syria. Less than half of which live in 58 recognized refugee camps. Although the number of confirmed cases has been small, largely thanks to the preventative measures taken by the refugees themselves, this brief reveals that the risk for a public health crisis remains high.
Refugee camps generally suffer from poor humanitarian and economic conditions, making it impossible to cope with the health crisis, lockdowns and prevention measures. Poor health, water and sanitation infrastructure in the camps increases the risk of spread of infection.
In addition to the reality of poverty Palestinian refugees can often only work in the informal sector and as daily laborers, but lockdown measures deprived them of around 90% of their employment opportunities. This is in addition to their limited coverage in relief efforts in most of their host countries and their dependence on UNRWA, the primary healthcare provider in the camps, has been struggling to secure the funds needed to cover its operations.
As thus, the paper presented a brief overview of applicable legal obligations toward Palestinian refugees, such as the right to health and livelihoods, and the right to equal treatment and non-discrimination, as guaranteed by the principles of international humanitarian law.
In light of existing rights of and obligations toward Palestinian refugees, the Global Network of Experts on the Question of Palestine (GNQP) recommends that a number of measures be considered in order to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure the protection, safety and health of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, occupied Palestine and Syria including: Calling on the International community and donors to Remind Israel of the obligations it has as the occupying power, in accordance with international humanitarian law, This entails lifting the siege on Gaza to allow for medical supplies and staff to enter and to acknowledge the importance of including Palestinian refugees in the measures taken as a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And to strengthen support for UNRWA, by fully funding the UNRWA Emergency Flash Appeal for the COVID-19 Response. The Network also called on the hosting countries’ governments to Abide by the provisions of international law related to the right to health, livelihood, and equal treatment and non-discrimination of all Palestinian refugees, and provide Palestinian refugees, as long-term residents in their countries, with affordable, appropriate and comprehensive access to public health services, including testing and treatment for COVID-19, without discrimination, and to combat hate speech against them in public and governmental publications.
The Network also demanded that UNRWA and other NGOs to Ensure that Palestinian refugees receive reliable information and support needed to facilitate their application and registration for assistance they are entitled to, and to cooperate with local grassroots organizations and civil society organizations to identify less identifiable Palestinian refugee communities, groups and individuals in need, including PRS, women and children. In addition the Network called on Refugees and host communities to enhance and expanding efforts foster a sense of solidarity between the refugee and host community to combat the spread of COVID-19 and its indirect impact on society, taking into consideration the ways in which the pandemic is affecting the society’s most vulnerable.
Finally, the paper reaffirmed to work on putting an end to the protracted plight of Palestinian refugees that has spanned over 72 years and seek a just and comprehensive solution that enables their right of return.
Download the paper (English & Arabic) on: