UK parliamentarians say government must restore UNRWA funding 'without delay'

UK parliamentarians say government must restore UNRWA funding 'without delay'
UK MPs and Lords have sent a letter to foreign minister David Cameron calling for the immediate resumption of funding to UNRWA, as thousands in Gaza face famine
3 min read
01 April, 2024
Dismantling UNRWA puts millions of Palestinians at severe risk of starvation and famine [Getty]

British parliamentarians are calling on the government to immediately resume funding of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which is suffering a severe lack of resources following unverified Israeli allegations that some of its staff worked with Hamas.

In a letter sent to Foreign Minister David Cameron, MPs and members of the House of Lords questioned why the UK decided to cut off financial aid to UNRWA, and why it had not yet resumed funding despite two investigations that came in response to the Israeli allegations, The Guardian newspaper reported.

The letter was sent by Scottish National Party MP Brendan O’Hara, and signed by colleagues from all main parties. It said funding should be restored "without delay", 

In late January, the UK government, along with the US and European Union, announced the suspension of funding to the agency following Israel's claim that 12 UNRWA staff members participated in the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on October 7.

The British government has said it was awaiting the findings of a review by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna and a UN investigation into the claims.

UNRWA has outright rejected the accusations, and its head, Philippe Lazzarini, has said Israel wanted to deliberately destroy the agency, which provides aid to millions of Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the occupied West Bank, as well as Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

The Gaza Strip is now in ruins as a result of Israel's indiscriminate war, which has killed over 32,000 people, with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians facing famine and in desperate need of aid.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he wishes to see the agency dismantled. In their letter, however, the British MPs said that UNRWA's work was essential.

"By reinstating funding to UNRWA, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to upholding human rights, promoting stability in the region and fostering a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the letter said.

"Since the grave allegations from Israeli authorities about UNRWA, two independent investigations have taken place. Following their conclusion, our allies in Canada, France, Finland, Australia, Sweden and the European Union have all restored funding. So why hasn’t the UK?"

"UNRWA has played a vital role in supporting the approximately 1.9 million internally displaced Palestinians throughout this conflict. Cutting off their funding has done monumental reputation damage and has risked derailing the critical lifesaving work they do," the letter added.

Last week, a British-Palestinian man brought charges against the UK government for suspending its financing of UNRWA, saying he was concerned for his family’s welfare and refugees in Gaza.

London-based law firm Bindmans LLP reported sending a letter to Cameron on behalf of their client.

The legal challenge is seeking the restoration of funding to UNRWA and argues that the government's decision was taken without due consideration of evidence and international obligations.

If the government does not announce the restoration of funding to the agency by Tuesday April 2, a judicial review will be launched.