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Protesters shut down UNRWA offices after layoffs

Dec. 11, 2012 9:31 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 14, 2012 9:34 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Labor leaders at Palestinian refugee camps on Tuesday shut down all UNRWA sub-offices in the West Bank in protest of the dismissal of 130 employees and reductions of services.

Munthir Amira, director of the youth center of Aida refugee camp, told Ma'an that "it is time that UNRWA's administration realize that the plight of Palestinian refugees can't be a political trade or an opportunity for Western employees to seek livelihood."

In al-Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah, young men closed the UNRWA office protesting the reduction of services, according to a member of the local popular committee. He highlighted that the decision to discharge 130 employees would result in more reductions.

In the southern West Bank's al-Arrub camp, the popular committee installed a sit-in tent after they closed the local UNRWA office. "We will go on with our protests until UNRWA retracts the unjust procedures against us," said Ahmad Abu Khayran, head of the popular committee.

In al-Amari, in the central West Bank, local popular committees also closed the UNRWA office, and similar protests were held in Balata camp in the north.

The protests came days after popular committees in the West Bank wrote a letter to the director of UNRWA operations, Felipe Sanchez, asking him to reverse the decision to discharge 130 employees, and to bring an end to what protesters say is a reduction in services.

"The UNRWA policy in the West Bank became unacceptable. Reductions affect only the services, while the high-ranking executives who receive very high salaries still enjoy privileges which ministers in rich countries do not enjoy," said Imad Abu Sunbul, a spokesman for the West Bank refugee camps.

"If UNRWA is really having a budget deficit, let them reduce expenses on the high-ranking executives whose salaries have not been affected by the reductions which started more than 10 years ago.

"It is unbelievable that a sick refugee pays 40 percent of his healthcare costs, while foreign employees enjoy countless privileges including shopping, trips and five-star hotels across the Middle East at the expense of the refugees."

An UNRWA spokesman in Jerusalem did not immediately return calls late Tuesday.
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