Palestinians in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp yesterday carried out a sit-in after learning that they were not on the agenda of Canada’s coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Andrew Robinson.
Although Robinson cited a busy schedule during his three-day visit, children from the camp lay on the ground at the camp’s entrance as a sign of protest.
Palestinian popular committees issued a statement condemning the lack of results after Robinson’s visits last year. “Every time you visit our camps you plant the seed of big hopes and beautiful dreams but unfortunately ... Our miserable life continues to be the same. As seeds will never grow without water, our dreams will never become real without your promises being fulfilled,” the statement said.
But Robinson expressed a different view. “I had to shorten my programme because I had a meeting this morning with the prime minister. This meant that ... a visit to Ain al-Hilweh, which I was very much looking forward to, had to be cancelled,” he said.
Robinson said he tried fit the visit in elsewhere but was subject to a tight schedule.
“I attach a lot of importance to following up and seeing the results of the meeting which we had in Ain al-Hilweh last year. We had a number of important meetings because it’s a big camp and it’s important to listen to the views of the representatives in that camp. I also wanted to go and see the results of our visit like the new secondary school and a garbage contractor,” he said, speaking after touring the Sibline training centre in Iqlim al-Kharoub.
Although Robinson announced on Tuesday that more than $15m had been raised from the international community and earmarked for projects in refugees camps in the country, refugees in Ain al-Hilweh doubted they will benefit.
Warde Tafesh, 53, called on donor countries to make serious efforts to secure needed funds for Unrwa. “They’re treating the situation as if we’re returning to Palestine tomorrow,” she said sarcastically.
Children who lay down at the camp’s entrance unperturbed by the smoke emanating from the burning tyres lit in protest had different demands. Eight-year-old Samih Ibrahim asked that the windows in the school he attends be fixed while Abdullah Aidash, six, said: “I want Robinson to build an amusement park for us in the camp.”
As part of the protest, members of popular committees prevented Unrwa employees from entering social and health centres run by the agency and forcibly closed its main centre in Sidon. But garbage collectors employed by the agency were allowed to continue their work.
Robinson’s visit aimed at looking into the harsh conditions of Palestinians and the need for assistance for education, shelter rehabilitation and health care. He visited Nahr al-Bared and Baddawi camps in the north on Tuesday.
The Canadian-led mission includes members from Egypt, the European Union, the Netherlands and Japan.