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Helping Palestine refugees get back on their feet after home demolitions

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Palestine refugees are particularly vulnerable to displacement. They are also disproportionately affected by demolition orders which are issued by the Israeli authorities who restrict significantly house construction in most of the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Without alternative opportunities, many Palestinians build homes on their land despite the restrictions. In cases like the below, the authorities either end up demolishing the home or pressure the families to self-demolish under the threat of imprisonment. In light of the often precarious economic situation of Palestine refugees to begin with, pivotal incidents like demolitions often have the potential to set off a spiral into poverty. This photo story illustrates how the Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) at the UNRWA West Bank Field Office, thanks to EU humanitarian aid, responds to these incidents and how its case management system is tailored to provide timely, appropriate and adequate support to Palestine refugees.

With the help of the CIU, the family was able to find new rental housing within the vicinity of their old home, allowing for some continuity in the lives of the family’s eight children. Although a temporary measure, the CIU’s intervention, with EU humanitarian support, allows the family to get back on its feet and achieve some stability, allowing them to better plan their medium and long-term future. “Our family has been in a good situation after the UNRWA response, which we greatly appreciate,” says the mother in the family.

The CIU provides an immediate response within 48 hours of incidents of this type, mapping out the initial needs of the family. They also provide cash assistance determined through an eligibility tool which lays out the criteria for support. Along with cash assistance, the CIU identifies other needs such as for psycho-social support and provides referrals to social services programs. This type of evaluation is done case-by-case to ensure that assistance is needs-based and tailored to refugees’ needs.

The psychological impact of home demolitions can be particularly traumatic for children. A key part of the CIU’s initial response is identifying the need for rapid psychosocial support and assessing whether UNRWA is best placed to provide it or whether the family should be referred to external partners.

The CIU’s team of social workers respond to incidents and handle the case management in coordination with the Protection and Neutrality team in order to provide effective, needs-based assistance. Case management is generally provided for up to three months, after which beneficiaries are referred to services and partners that can better ensure longer-term assistance measures, if needed. “One of the most important things we do at the CIU is help refugees find shelter in the same community where they lived before their homes were demolished. This both helps them through a difficult time and gives them dignity in their living situation,” says Osama Tamimi, an UNRWA staff member at the CIU.