HL Deb 19 June 1967 vol 283 cc1162-3

2.41 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can make a further statement on the refugee problem in the Middle East.]


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have been deeply concerned about the new refugee problem caused by the war in the Middle East. We estimate that more than 100,000 refugees have already crossed from West Jordan to the East bank. Our latest reports, however, indicate that movement of refugees may be diminishing. Her Majesty's Government have made finance available to allow emergency supplies to be sent from Government stocks in Cyprus. They have also offered an additional contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and have now informed the Jordan Government that they will make available £500,000 for expenditure on urgent rehabilitation and reconstruction projects to be agreed between the two Governments. Other Governments and various voluntary agencies are also offering assistance. The Government of Israel and UNRWA have entered into an agreement under which the Agency can continue its work in Israeli-occupied territory.

2.43 p.m.


My Lords, in view of the resolution unanimously passed by the Security Council at its meeting last Wednesday, has my noble friend any information as to what action has been taken by the Government of Israel to safeguard the welfare and security of the one million refugees who formerly inhabited the West bank of the Jordan and the Gaza Strip, and to facilitate the return of those who fled from both these areas which are now occupied by Israeli troops?


My Lords, in the light of the resolution referred to by my noble friend, we were of course disturbed by Press reports which seemed to suggest that there might be pressure on the Arab population to leave Israeli-occupied territories. But we now have the assurance of the Israeli Government that these reports were exaggerated, and that the Arab population have been assured of their safety if they choose to stay, or indeed if those who left choose to return. We have also heard that as a result of this statement there has been the beginning of a return movement to the West bank by some of those people who originally fled the area. I can assure my noble friend, however, that we have made clear to the Israeli Government our concern for the welfare of the Arab population of Israeli-occupied territories, and indeed our anxiety which is basic to this whole issue, that a new refugee problem should not be super-imposed upon the existing one.


My Lords, are we to understand from what my noble friend has said that there is no truth in the statement which appeared in the Press this morning, that Arabs had been forcibly compelled to leave their homes in Jerusalem?


My Lords, we certainly have no evidence to support such an allegation. The original suggestions were that the Israeli authorities had placed no obstacle in the way of such movement, and that some people may have interpreted this as being a form of subtle pressure on people to leave. We certainly have no evidence to support an allegation that they are being forcibly removed.

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