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UK's funding suspension to UN relief agency for Palestinians challenged

UK's funding suspension to UN relief agency for Palestinians challenged


Bindmans issues pre-action letter against UK's UNRWA funding halt, citing dire Gaza humanitarian crisis

A pre-action letter has been dispatched by Bindmans on behalf of a British citizen of Palestinian descent, contesting the UK government's decision to suspend funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The letter, addressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, challenges the ongoing suspension since January 27, 2024, prompted by Israel's allegations against 12 UNRWA staff linked to the October 7, 2023 attacks on Israel.

Even prior to the tragic events instigated by Hamas in Israel on October 7, 2023, Gaza's humanitarian plight was dire. The fallout from Israel's response to these attacks has exacerbated the crisis, with the International Court of Justice deeming it potentially constituting genocide.

According to Bond, a UK network of over 350 NGOs and humanitarian agencies, UNRWA serves as the primary lifeline for millions of displaced Palestinians facing famine across the Middle East, unmatched by any other organisation in reach and support.

Echoing this sentiment, the International Rescue Committee emphasises UNRWA's irreplaceable role in Gaza's humanitarian response, crucial amid the ongoing crisis.

In response to Israel's allegations, UNRWA's Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini terminated the implicated staff and initiated investigations. Despite these actions and UNRWA's pivotal role, the UK and several UN member states, including the USA, halted funding the next day.

This funding freeze has severely impacted UNRWA's operations in Gaza, with the EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, warning that the withheld funds jeopardise the agency's survival.

While the EU, Sweden, and Canada have reinstated funding, citing UNRWA's indispensable contribution to Gaza's stability, the UK has refrained from doing so pending a UN investigation and independent review.

Alice Hardy, Partner at Bindmans, asserts that the UK government's suspension contradicts its international development strategy, which prioritises humanitarian assistance and preventing suffering. She underscores the urgency of reinstating funding, given Gaza's catastrophic situation, including an impending famine.

As Bindmans spearheads legal action against the funding halt, Hardy's remarks highlight the moral imperative to restore aid and alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians. The outcome of this legal battle holds significant implications for UNRWA's ability to provide critical aid to Palestinians in need.