UNRWA changes spark fear refugees will be abandoned

Palestinians stage protests outside UN agency in Gaza City in protest against dropping of words "relief" and "works" from name.

UNRWA logo 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
UNRWA logo 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees has officially changed its logo and name, omitting the words “relief” and “works.”
Palestinians fear the decision is an indication the UN agency is planning to stop providing refugees with many services.
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A spokesman for the agency denied the change had any significance, and it was just updating its website on the occasion of its 60th anniversary.
Changing the agency’s mandate can be done only through a UN resolution, the spokesman explained.
Although the agency’s new website does carry the word UNRWA, the sentence accompanying it now reads: “The UN agency for Palestinian refugees.”
The absence of the two words has sparked a wave of protests in the Gaza Strip.
Over the past few days, Palestinians staged a number of demonstrations outside the headquarters of the agency in Gaza City.
The Popular Committee for Refugees in the Gaza Strip said the name change is part of an attempt by the agency to avoid fulfilling its duties toward Palestinian refugees.
The committee expressed fear the decision was part of a conspiracy designed to resettle refugees and deny them the right to return to their homes inside Israel.
“Changing the name means that UNRWA is trying to evade some of its responsibilities,” said Mueen Okal, chairman of the committee.
The Hamas government has also voiced concern over UNRWA’s decision, accusing the agency of conspiring against the rights of Palestinian refugees.
A statement by Hamas claimed the change indicates the agency is planning radical changes in its mission. The statement said UNRWA does not have the right to change its mandate or dissolve itself.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said his government was following the case with UNRWA and others to clarify the picture.
Haniyeh told supporters in a mosque on Friday that the apparent name change had “political implications that would affect UNRWA’s commitments towards the Palestinian refugees.”