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Filipino students chip in to aid Palestinian refugees

Over 50 families staying in a university in Manila face uncertain future as government aid ends in five days
A Filipino woman takes part in a rally in support of the Palestinian people in front of the US embassy in Manila on Nov 14. Catholic students have started a fundraising drive to help more than 50 Palestinian refugees housed in a university in the Philippines.

A Filipino woman takes part in a rally in support of the Palestinian people in front of the US embassy in Manila on Nov 14. Catholic students have started a fundraising drive to help more than 50 Palestinian refugees housed in a university in the Philippines.  (Photo: AFP)

Published: December 15, 2023 04:47 AM GMT
Updated: December 15, 2023 05:03 AM GMT

Catholic students have started a fundraising drive to help more than 50 Palestinian refugees housed in a university in the Philippines as their government aid ends within five days.

The Palestinians, married to Filipino nationals, fled their country after war broke out on Oct.7. They arrived under a government program and were accommodated in the University of the Philippines in Quezon City in the capital Manila.

“We were told to leave, starting Dec. 21, Amir Halevi, 39, told UCA News.

“Our accommodation was paid only up to Dec. 21. Thus, we need a place to stay … we have no jobs, no money to pay for our housing,” said the Palestinian national and father of two, married to a Filipino nurse.

“Each family needs almost Php20,000 (US$364) per month to survive. If they do not have any work and the government has cut the aid. We are afraid they will end up in the street,” Adelaide Sebastian, 43, a social worker based in Quezon City, told UCA News.

Halevi, a nurse by profession, made use of the opportunity to escape Gaza when the Philippines' Foreign Affairs Department offered help.

I was so worried about my children, since both of them are girls. They might have been used as human shields, he said.

“I decided to come to the Philippines as my wife told me about the Philippine government’s repatriation efforts,” he added.

The war in Gaza, which started after a surprise raid by Hamas on Israel on Oct. 7, has claimed more than 18,000 Palestinian lives and injured over 50,000 people due to indiscriminate bombardments by the Israeli army. Chances of a humanitarian ceasefire are dim despite the UN General Assembly voting in favor of it.

On Dec. 14 Israeli defence minister, Yoav Gallant, told visiting US national security chief Jake Sullivan that it'll take "several months" to defeat Hamas amid growing global pressure and deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Halevi and his family were living in a condominium unit which was later occupied by Hamas and curbed their movements. He was working with a private medical facility in Kibbutz Be’eri near the Gaza Strip.

When they came to the Philippines, they were given US$1,361 by the government and were promised more aid.

Cristine, Halevi’s wife, is planning to knock on the doors of relatives.

“I do not know what to do. Perhaps I will call my relatives in Mindanao to help us,” she said.

“… but I still don’t have a job, nor does my husband,” Cristine told UCA News.

Catholic students from the University of the Philippines and civil society groups have launched separate campaigns to aid Palestinians.

A group of Catholic students said they launched a campaign on Dec. 11 to solicit funds from their alumni.

“We will boost our campaign with the 'giving tree' drive during the Christmas season in the university,” said Kiko Polinar, 23, who acts as vice-president of the University of Philippines Student Catholic Action.

I am sure we can collect money for them,” Polinar told UCA News.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, too, has promised help from dioceses.

Cubao diocese in Quezon City has started collecting donations during Mass in several parishes.

“We will meet in the coming days” to help them, assured Bishop Narciso Abellana, chair of the prelates’ commission on Migrants and Itinerant People.

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