[This rehabilitation effort, also funded in part by the USA and Canada, represents a model effort by UNRWA in the direction of rehabilitating Palestinian Arab refugees in decent conditions, rather than having them remain in their squalor under the specious premise and promise of the right of return to homes and villages that no longer exist]

Representative of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Department, ECHO, arrived in Homs camp Tuesday to celebrate the completion of 135 shelters that have been rehabilitated as part of an over €1 million EU funded project to assist Palestine refugees in Syria.

“We are very happy to be here today and see firsthand the work you have done,” said Mr Philippe Royan, Head, Regional Support Office, Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid. ECHO donated over €1 million in 2005 to UNRWA in Syria and will provide over € 320,000 in additional funding for shelter rehabilitation for 67 families in Dera’a, Homs and Khan Dannoun camps.

The shelters targeted by UNRWA’s rehabilitation programme are found to be in such poor condition that they are in desperate need of reconstruction. In order to be more cost effective and ensure community participation, many of the refugees do the work on their shelters on their own, with technical supervision from the refugee agency.

“The ECHO donation will translate into better living conditions to Palestine refugees living here”, Patricia Mc Phillips, Acting Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria told the audience, which included the ECHO representative, Governor of Homs, Director- General of the General Authority for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR) and other Syrian Government officials, and the Palestine refugee community.

“The project also helped to empower the refugees as many of them actively participated in the repair or finishing work of their shelter,” Mc Phillips added.

On behalf of the beneficiaries, Ali Khaswan thanked ECHO for their generous contribution, which will be a substantial help in providing better living conditions for the people in Homs. “I have at least one multi-purpose room, a kitchen, and sanitary facilities that are well lit, ventilated and easily maintained in a hygienic condition,” he said.

The project was also praised because of the co-operation between the donor community, UNRWA and the host country.

“This project reflects the co-operation between the Syrian Arab Republic, UNRWA and donor to provide better services to Palestine refugees and their camps pending a just solution to their plight, in accordance with United Nations resolutions,” said Ali Mustafa, Director-General of GAPAR.