Palestinian Refugees Announce Campaign for the Defense of Refugee Rights

In a press conference held in Qalandia Refugee Camp on Thursday, 20-3-1997, the local Coordinating Committee of the Campaign for the Defense of Refugee Rights presented its aims and programs to the media thus marking the official start of their Campaign.

The Campaign for the Defense of Refugee Rights - to be launched in the West

Bank - is a local expression of the awakening of Palestinian refugees in the

region triggered by the concern for their future in the framework of the Oslo

Process. Earlier this year, Palestinian refugees in both Lebanon and Syria conducted strikes and protest pickets against the cuts in UNRWA services and

salaries, and the Department of Palestinian Affairs in the Jordanian Foreign Ministry warns of violent protests which may arise also among the 1.3 million

refugees living in Jordan, unless the international policy of dismantling UNRWA is reversed.

The local Campaign for the Defense of Refugee Rights is based on two years of efforts by the Union of Youth Centers in the West Bank, an independent organization representing refugees of 16 West Bank refugee camps, to equip Palestinian refugees with adequate tools for meeting the challenges of the current political process which seriously questions international standards and resolutions, especially Palestinian refugees right of return based on UN Resolution 194. The Union of Youth Centers was joined, in 1996, by the Jerusalem Open University/Refugee Studies Center, and by the Alternative Information Center/Project for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights so as to support the refugee initiative with expertise in academic research and media dissemination.

In 1997, the three partner organizations will - conduct a series of workshops on dimensions and current interpretations of the Palestinian refugees' right of return. These workshops will be held both among academic circles and in refugee camps, so as to contribute to the clarification of content and strategies related to what has remained Palestinian refugees' central demand, right, and dream; - facilitate popular refugee conferences in various regions of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in order to involve the broad refugee community in the debate

about refugee recommendations and demands began by the refugee conferences in al Far'ah (1995) and the Bethlehem District (1996); - function as a refugee lobby among all official and independent political actors, especially the PLO, PNA, and the PLC; - support refugee efforts for building pressure on the international community so it will abstain from further cutting back UNRWA's budget and services; - encourage local and international NGOs to increase their involvement on behalf of refugee rights in general, and the level of activities in refugee camps in

particular; - establish coordination with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, so as to encounter the current division and isolation of Palestinian refugees in the region by means of concerted action.

The Coordinating Committee of the Campaign for the Defense Palestinian Refugee Rights will mark the start of its 1997 initiative with a Public Opening Celebration at al- Serraj Center/Ramallah on Thursday, 27-3-1997, 15:30pm. Media, NGOs, foreign missions, and the public are cordially invited!

For further details please contact: AIC-Project for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights;
Jerusalem office, tel. 02-6242259, fax. 02-6253151; Bethlehem office,tel. 02-740585, 050-440353.