Trump Administration Plans to Cut Off Most Aid to Palestinian Refugee Program

Geraldine Edwards
September 1, 2018

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said a meeting next month in NY on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly would mobilise support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to continue core education and health services.

Earlier this year, the administration cut UNRWA's scheduled payment of $130 million to just $65 million.

The Trump administration has chose to cancel all its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a unique agency which has been maintaining the refugee status of more than five million people who never left home, the Washington Post reported Thursday night.

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It will also "reaffirm that UNRWA is an organisation created by the UN General Assembly, with a clear and particular role, and this role must continue", he added.

"Beyond the budget gap itself and failure to mobilize adequate and appropriate burden sharing, the fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNWRA for years - tied to UNRWA's endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries - is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years", said Heather Nauert, State Department spokesperson. The US has remained UNRWA's major benefactor and an end to American support for the agency could prove fatal.

In January, the USA announced it would withhold more than half of a tranche of funding for the agency.

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Jordan will call for an Arab League meeting to lobby for donors to cover the $200 million shortfall needed to shore up UNRWA, Safadi said.

The Trump administration also plans to seek a dramatic reduction in the number of Palestinians deemed eligible by the United Nations for refugee status, the Washington Post and the New York Times reported. The new number would only include people who were directly displaced, not their offspring. The United States has for always been the biggest individual donor to UNRWA, established by the UN General Assembly in 1949.

The U.S., which supplies almost 30 percent of the total budget, is the largest contributor to the organization. "I absolutely think we have to look at right of return".

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Safadi last week raised the plight of UNRWA with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington where officials say he warned of "dangerous consequences" to regional stability if the financial crisis were not resolved.

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