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UNRWA chief: 5.4 million Palestinian refugees ‘cannot be wished away’

The head of UNRWA says that the 5.4 million Palestinians considered refugees by the UN “cannot simply be wished away,” hitting back at criticism that his agency was responsible for perpetuates the Palestinian refugee issue.

In an open letter to refugees and UNRWA staff, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl expresses “deep regret and disappointment at the nature of the US decision” to defund the agency.

Israel, and more recently the US, have accused UNRWA of granting refugee status to the descendants of Palestinians displaced in the 1948 War of Independence.

But Krahenbuhl says “the protracted nature of the Palestine refugee crisis” is not unique, and notes that the children and grandchildren of refugees from Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, and Congo have been recognized by the UN as refugees.

“No matter how often attempts are made to minimize or delegitimize the individual and collective experiences of Palestine refugees, the undeniable fact remains that they have rights under international law and represent a community of 5.4 million men, women, and children, who cannot simply be wished away,” he says.

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