SIDON, Lebanon: Palestinian refugees who fled the violence in Syria protested at Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in south Lebanon Wednesday, accusing UNRWA of ignoring them.
The protesters raised placards that read, “We demand UNRWA not remain blind-mute-deaf” and “We as refuges have the right to health care.”
The demonstration was held by some 100 Palestinians who fled refugee camps in Syria in recent months for the relative safety of Ain al-Hilweh. They held a sit-in outside the camp’s U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), criticizing the organization for not providing them with assistance.
The protesters were joined by members of the camp’s Popular Committees, who are demanding U.N. assistance for the Syrian-Palestinian refugees.
A source at the Popular Committees, a coalition of various Palestinian factions, told The Daily Star that hundreds of Palestinian families living in Syria-based refugee camps have fled the violence in recent months and come to camps in Lebanon.
He said among them were some 350 Palestinian families who moved from camps in Damascus, Deraa and elsewhere in Syria to Ain al-Hilweh.
Following a 20-minute sit-in outside UNRWA headquarters in Ain al-Hilweh, members of the Popular Committees broke into a U.N.-run cultural center for women and gave one of its rooms to a Syrian-Palestinian family.
“I did what they want and they asked me if there are more rooms to accommodate more families,” said Ghada Salameh, head of the center.
Salameh, in remarks to The Daily Star, said she explained to the Popular Committees that if she accepts more refugees she will have to suspend teaching women sewing and computer skills at the center.
Popular Committees member Fouad Osman swiftly interrupted, requesting that Salameh relay their demands to the U.N.
“We cannot stand seeing families living on the street,” Osman told Salameh. “This is why UNRWA has to find an alternative.”
Osman told The Daily Star that Wednesday’s action was because the camp’s tenants could no longer afford to house the new refugees.