The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria has disclosed that the Syrian regime’s security services have temporarily suspended several employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) from their duties, compelling the agency to terminate their employment under the pretext that they posed a “threat to Syrian security.”
According to unnamed sources cited by the working group, these suspensions occurred between September and November. The affected personnel include three UNRWA staff members in Damascus, two in northern Syria, and one in the central region. The decision to suspend and dismiss these individuals resulted from a security assessment conducted during a period of so-called “waiting,” during which work was halted.
It has been highlighted that the suspensions and terminations were instigated due to one of the employees having a family member associated with the Syrian opposition.
UNRWA recruitment in the hands of the Syrian regime
In a connected development, the group asserted that the recruitment procedures within UNRWA have fallen under the control of security forces, with a clear bias towards individuals closely associated with the Syrian regime. They highlighted the prevalence of favouritism and nepotism within the organization, noting that there is a recent trend of hiring individuals who are not of Palestinian origin and belong to well-established sects in Syria. These individuals reportedly hold influence within the Syrian security services, particularly the Palestine branch, surpassing the number of appointments made by the Director General of UNRWA.
Funding drop threatens to close UNRWA schools
The Syrian regime is intensifying its control over Palestinian refugees within the country, with recent reports indicating that a patrol from the Palestine branch of the Military Security Division has apprehended three Palestinian activists in the town of Yalda, located south of Damascus. The arrests are purportedly linked to the activists’ involvement in organizing a demonstration in solidarity with the Gaza Strip.
UNRWA in Yarmouk camp
Since the close of 2020, the Syrian regime has permitted the return of certain Palestinian refugees to Yarmouk. According to UNRWA, an estimated 4,000 individuals (comprising 1,200 families) had returned by June 2022, with around 800 of these being Palestinian families. Despite the returnees, Yarmouk is home to over 4,000 people, including both Palestine refugees and Syrians. The area faces significant challenges due to the scarcity of essential services and the severe damage inflicted on transportation and public infrastructure.
Compounding these difficulties, UNRWA has grappled with substantial financial crises for several years, resulting in a diminished capacity to deliver services to Palestinian refugees. In June, the agency issued a warning that its services would be “at risk” starting from September.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.