In a dangerous precedent as Al-Nashra website announced it, the UNRWA filed a lawsuit, accusing unknown individuals of “attacking its offices during a protest organized by the inhabitants of “Al-Baraksat” neighborhood, against the office of the Director of Construction John White (Saturday, September 18th), objecting to the forced eviction of families, in the absence of an alternative housing. It is noteworthy that the “Halba” police station called a number of camp residents (22 people) accused of participating in the protest, the majority of them women, and summoned them to appear today (Monday) to listen to them in the lawsuit filed for assault, breaking and even theft.”
What is happening today is another alienation of the camp’s residents, and the agency’s attempt to evade the responsibility of securing safe and decent housing, the reconstruction of neighborhoods and their growth support. The agency asked more than 80 families to evacuate the barracks without securing alternative housing, only offering them a rental fee, during the worst economic collapse the country is witnessing, and while homeowners are enjoying increased control over the tenants and their families’ destinies.
The barracks are steel or concrete houses the UNRWA built as temporary houses for the residents of Nahr al-Bared camp, pending the completion of the reconstruction process. They were built following the destruction of the camp during the army’s battles in 2007, to house the displaced for the short period of three years. Palestinian families from the camp have been living in the barracks for 14 years, in dire conditions and without the basic requirements for safe and decent housing.
Today – according to an UNRWA report issued in 2020 – 30% of the residents of Nahr al-Bared are still prevented from returning to their neighborhoods and houses due to the delay in reconstruction, while a large number of those who have returned live in inadequate housing conditions. In 2011 (4 years after the destruction of the camp), UNRWA informed the residents of the refugee camps that they must leave the barracks they live in within a year, due to the deteriorating conditions of the barracks, in exchange for a financial allowance of 150$, an amount which was supposed to cover house rentals in the camp, until their destroyed houses are rebuilt. The residents refused, because this suggested remuneration was not enough to rent a house and pay for electricity costs at the time. The residents of the barracks are amongst the most impoverished and vulnerable families in the camp, and a large number of them are women or elderly who live alone.
Today, the UNRWA re-employs the method of dealing with the housing rights of camp residents, completely dismissing the impact of this endeavour on their lives and housing security, and the way in which it increases their vulnerability.