Palestinian refugees and popular committees in two camps in Sidon staged a demonstration yesterday to protest against the United Nations Relief and Work Agency’s budget cuts and its poor social, educational and health services.
More than 150 people gathered in front of Unrwa offices and in the Ain al-Hilweh and Mieh-Mieh Palestinian refugee camps holding Lebanese and Palestinian flags and waving banners and slogans demanding improved Unrwa services to all the camps in the country.
The protesters handed a memorandum to Unrwa summing up their demands for better education and school conditions, free hospitalisation, more doctors and clinics and special treatment for the elderly.
The Palestinians also demand the rehabilitation of sanitary services and networks inside the camps.
The memorandum warned against reducing the job opportunities for Palestinians and also asked that the administrative division be maintained between the Bekaa refugees and Beirut refugees.
According to Lebanese law, Palestinian refugees are not entitled to work or to receive free hospitalisation in Lebanon.
They also do not enjoy any civil rights.
The refugees asked that the Lebanese government lift the ban on construction products to the refugee camps in Tyre and to support the demands of the Palestinian people.
Suheila al-Khatib, 45, said: “We’ve come here to raise our voice so that the world and the public hear, and help towards improving our conditions.”
The memorandum called on all Palestinian powers to join ranks in order to face Unrwa’s budget cuts and new austerity policy.
The protests, which lasted for three hours, were marked by the participation of prominent Fatah-Arafat wing officials in Lebanon, including Khaled Gharek and the movement’s responsible director in Sidon, Khaled Shayeb.
Housewife Samira Adnan al-Roz complained that her paralysed son had to undergo open-heart surgery for which she had to raise the money herself as Unrwa had failed to pay the entire cost.
In August, Unrwa announced that it was making a $7m cut in its budget after suffering a $20m budget deficit.
Angered by the move, some 360,000 Palestinian refugees have been staging regular protests to pressure Unrwa into upgrading its services.