5 April 2011 Beirut
A delegation of the European Union (EU), comprising the head of the EU delegation to Lebanon, Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst, and seven ambassadors of EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Spain, Sweden), visited Nahr el-Bared camp in northern Lebanon with the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Mr Salvatore Lombardo.
Touring the site, the ambassadors were briefed on the general situation in the camp, and the different activities run by UNRWA, including camp reconstruction, relief and recovery. They also visited newly constructed houses and temporary shelters for displaced families.
The visit concluded in the office of local NGO Al-Tadamon, where the ambassadors met with representatives of the local community and heard about issues concerning them: unemployment, high university tuition fees, delays in NBC reconstruction, and the importance of the continuity of relief assistance, such as rental subsidies.
Since 2007, the European Union and its 27 Member States have generously donated a total contribution of US$ 43 million to UNRWA for reconstruction, the relief and recovery in Nahr el-Bared.
Talking before the visit, Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst said: "Since 2007, the EU and its Member States have mobilised all their available instruments to respond not only to the needs of Palestinian refugees after the Nahr el-Bared crisis, but also to support the Lebanese communities in the surrounding areas and to contribute to the social and economic recovery of the whole north Lebanon region.
"Support to Palestine refugees is a matter of human dignity and it is paramount to Lebanon's stability. The European Union, which is with its Member States the biggest contributor to UNRWA, will continue to support Palestine refugees in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East."
Director of UNRWA operations in Lebanon Salvatore Lombardo thanked the European Union for its continuous support, saying: "This visit comes at a junction when the first families are soon preparing their return to their reconstructed homes in Nahr el-Bared. The European Union and its Member States have shown engagement with the work of UNRWA, and commitment to the Palestine refugees. I thank the governments and people of the EU, our largest multilateral donor."
The destruction of Nahr el-Bared Camp in the conflict of 2007, and the subsequent displacement of some 27,000 Palestine refugees from the camp and its adjacent areas created a humanitarian crisis, the effects of which are still being felt four years on. Thanks to donor contributions since 2007, UNRWA has been able to meet the most basic needs of the displaced refugees. The physical reconstruction of the camp began in November 2009, and construction is under way for three packages out of eight, and three of six UNRWA schools. Nevertheless, the long-term recovery of the camp and its residents is by no means assured, and UNRWA's support to the displaced refugees continues to be vital.
UNRWA and the EU
The EU's principal objective in delivering support to Palestine refugees is to contribute to the just resolution of the refugee issue as part of a comprehensive settlement of final status issues. In doing so, the EU ensures that the essential humanitarian and development needs of the Palestine refugees are met. It delivers most of such assistance through its partnership with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The EU has been UNRWA's largest donor since 1971. The bulk of EU financial support is devoted to UNRWA's core funding enabling it to provide essential education, health, and social relief services to Palestine refugees.
To find out more about the EU's assistance to the Palestinians, visit the Europa website
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UNRWA Public information officer in Lebanon