HC Deb 23 March 1964 vol 692 cc20-1
21. Sir R. Russell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the total number of people still classified as Palestine refugees; what is the total amount to be contributed towards the programme for their relief in 1964; and what progress is being made in permanently settling them in their adopted countries.

Mr. Mathew

The total number of Palestine refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East on 31st December, 1963, the latest date for which figures are available, was 1,228,064. Of these, 879,874 are in receipt of full rations. About $32.5 million in cash and kind has been pledged to the 1964 budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. This sum does not include non-governmental contributions, which were valued in 1963 at about $700,000.

It is a matter for regret that so little progress has been made towards the settlement of this problem, which is inextricably involved with the complex of unsolved political problems arising out of the Arab-Israel dispute.

Sir R. Russell

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but is it not appalling that more than 15 years after this dispute started there should still be so many refugees in the Middle East? Is not that entirely due to prejudice among the Arab countries and the stirring up of propaganda among the Arab countries against Israel?

Mr. Mathew

I would agree with what the hon. Gentleman says. As I said in my reply, this is involved in the complex of unsolved political problems arising out of the Arab-Israel dispute, and Her Majesty's Government are doing everything they can to get some progress.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

If more money were spent on vocational training, would not many of the refugees be able to find jobs in the Arab countries, which badly need technicians of all sorts?

Mr. Mathew

That is certainly something worth considering. Any permanent resettlement in the Arab countries must depend primarily on the co-operation of the host Governments, and that is the problem.

Mr. E. Fletcher

Can the hon. Gentleman do something to ensure that these very considerable subventions to Arab Governments are linked with effective schemes for the rehabilitation of these refugees?

Mr. Mathew

I will take note of that. We are taking a great interest, and we are a large contributor. We have pledged 5,400,000 dollars this year and in each of the preceding years. I will certainly take note of what the hon. Member has said.

Mr. P. Williams

Why does my hon. Friend always give the figures in dollars? Are they across the exchanges or are they payments in sterling?

Mr. Mathew

It is because they are payments to an agency of the United Nations, where the dollar is the normal currency and is understood internationally by all members.