UK government likely to restore UNRWA funding, MPs are told

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UK government likely to restore UNRWA funding, MPs are told

Deputy foreign minister Andrew Mitchell tells MPs; "The House, I think, should expect that we will be restoring funding'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

UNRWA sign in Jerusalem, 2007
UNRWA sign in Jerusalem, 2007

The United Nations Palestinian relief agency UNRWA can expect the UK Government to restore funding, deputy foreign minister Andrew Mitchell has confirmed.

Confirming that the government is still waiting for an Office of Internal Oversight Services report from the United Nations, Mitchell told MPs:”The House, I think, should expect that we will be restoring funding to make sure that humanitarian support is available.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office paused funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in January, after the Government heard allegations that some Agency staff were implicated in the October 7 attacks, and had openly shown support for Hamas.

But Liberal Democrat defence spokesperson Richard Foord told the Commons on Monday: “The Colonna report (into UNRWA, dated April 2024) found that Israeli authorities have yet to provide proof of their claims that UN staff in Gaza are involved in terrorist organisations.

“For the supply of aid to those Palestinians in Gaza who are innocent, the UNRWA is the only serious organisation capable of it. Why won’t the British Government follow the lead of our Australian, Canadian and European allies and reinstate funding to UNRWA?”

Mitchell replied: “In respect of the Colonna report, I can say that we are still waiting for the OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) report from the UN, and I am advised there has been good cooperation between the UN and the Israeli authorities on that.

“On UNRWA, as I said, we are waiting for that report. The House, I think, should expect that we will be restoring funding to make sure that humanitarian support is available through that mechanism, but (Mr Foord) I’m sure will reflect upon the appalling events which were revealed about members of UNRWA staff and we must complete the process which I set out.”

Mitchell later suggested to MPs that the government would set a series of “conditions” for the relief agency to abide by, after the report comes back from the UN as expected with similar recommendations.

Palestinians receive aid packs from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Last month Jewish News told how Downing Street was under mounting pressure to restore funding to the UN Palestinian relief agency UNRWA despite claims made by Israel of links to Hamas and the October 7th attacks.

Israel has accused more than 2,135 of the agency’s staff of being members of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad – proscribed terror organisations in Israel, the UK, US and other countries.

But the Colonna report, which looked at ways of making UNRWA more “transparent and accountable”, suggested Israel was yet to provide “supporting evidence” for its claim of mass links to Hamas.

Some pro-Israel Tory MPs have continued to argue that such a decision would amount to “moral bankruptcy” because of what they say are clear links between UNRWA workers and Hamas, including support for the October 7th attacks.

UNRWA workers allegedly partaking in October 7 massacre. Courtesy: IDF

Richard Pater of the Jerusalem-based Bicom think tank, admitted last month:“Because of the necessity of humanitarian aid in Gaza, UNRWA is needed as there may be no immediate replacement.

“As faulty and problematic as UNRWA is, you can’t have a vacuum in Gaza, so until an adequate body is there to replace them, renewing aid might be the calculation of a British government.”

The UK was one of 18 countries that in January halted financing for the UN Relief and Works Agency after Israel alleged 12 of its 30,000 staff had taken part in the Hamas-led attacks on October 7.

Britain had made all its planned contributions of £35 million ($43.1 million) to UNRWA for the last financial year up until April and the government said it would resume funding only after reforms proposed by a UN inquiry have been made.

Since then, the EU and nine countries, including Germany, have restored funding.

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