OPT: European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid visits job creation programme in Salfit

Salfit Municipality today hosted the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, and UNRWA's Deputy Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi.

Louis Michel and Filippo Grandi discussed the status of the Job Creation Programme (JCP) and the positive impact it was having on Salfit's community and in the 19 refugee camps and 180 villages and municipalities in the West Bank where it is also implemented. The JCP employs 6000 people a month.

Grandi also discussed the current situation in Gaza; the problems relating to the Karni and Rafah crossings, the dangerous security situation in Gaza that has resulted in 30% of UNRWA schools closing at least once from Israeli incursions during 2006 and increasingly difficult access, an issue that affects UNRWA staff all over the West Bank.

Grandi noted that, according to projections, UNRWA expects to receive less than 50% funding for the Emergency Appeal this year. UNRWA has requested $250 million.

Louis Michel and Filippo Grandi were joined by the Mayor of Salfit, Tahseen Abu Slimi after their meeting. He thanked the European Commission and UNRWA and commended the positive impact the JCP programme is having on people in Salfit.

He also discussed the difficulties faced by the town's members due to the building of the barrier. Salfit has experienced the confiscation of 4000 dunums of town land used primarily as olive groves. Access to this land was denied by the Israeli authorities during the harvesting period. Salfit was the central town for a number of neighbouring villages who are now also suffering from the construction of the barrier and implementation of the permit system, preventing them from accessing the town. The town also suffers from sewage and chemical waste from neighbouring settlements.

Salfit has been home to projects such as the planting of more than 300 trees in public spaces, the renovation of a women's community centre, painting of public buildings, the creation of numerous irrigation and farming features and an olive press plant.

Louis Michel praised the importance of the Job Creation Programme, saying that he hoped to find "new means" to extend the programme's activities and that Salfit's Mayor could count on European Union support for such schemes.