Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Ceisteanna (83)

Thomas Pringle


83. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if increased assistance will be provided to humanitarian agencies in Gaza following the high number of Palestinians shot and injured during the six-week great march of return which began on 30 March 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18250/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland’s programme of assistance to the Palestinian people supports our political objectives and reflects a longstanding commitment to the peaceful development of a viable, sovereign Palestinian State. Through the Irish Aid programme, we currently provide some €10 million annually in development and humanitarian assistance. This involves support to the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees and civil society organisations working to promote human rights.

In December 2017, Ireland provided additional funding of €500,000 to UNRWA to support their Gaza Emergency Appeal in response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Other agencies operating in Gaza also received funding including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA received €500,000 in 2017 for their activities in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt); €300,000 of which was for the oPt Humanitarian Fund. This is used to support the emergency response operations of NGOs and UN agencies. In 2017, almost 80% of the oPt Humanitarian Fund addressed urgent needs in Gaza.

To date in 2018, Ireland has approved funding totalling €4.25 million for UNRWA’s Programme Budget, which supports the provision of services and assistance to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees including in Gaza. This is an increase of €250,000 on their 2017 allocation.

In March, Ireland disbursed €2.9 million in core funding to OCHA and €9.5 million in core funding to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which works throughout the oPt, including in Gaza. The ICRC is providing material and technical support to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and to hospitals in Gaza in their emergency response. As part of its work, the ICRC is also working with relevant authorities and security forces to try to minimise the impact of violence on civilians and preserve a humanitarian space where health care workers can operate safely.

Ireland is also a key supporter of the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), providing €22 million in 2017. A grant of $15 million was provided from the CERF to UNRWA last month to enable the organisation to provide urgent food assistance for more than 600,000 Palestine refugees in Gaza and the West Bank.

I am deeply concerned by the events in Gaza over recent weeks. The Tánaiste, on behalf of the Government, has repeatedly called for the utmost restraint, and urged the Israeli authorities, in particular, to ensure that any force is used only as a last resort. The number of people injured by live ammunition is very troubling, and Ireland has supported calls by the EU and by the UN Secretary General for an independent and transparent investigation. The appalling number of serious injuries and the loss of life exacerbate an already fragile humanitarian situation, and increase the vulnerabilities of many families, the majority of whom are dependent on humanitarian aid to meet basic needs. Ireland is closely monitoring the situation in Gaza and will continue to provide support to existing UN and NGO partners working in Gaza.