HL Deb 28 November 1973 vol 347 cc125-42

2.58 p.m.

BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD rose to call attention to the world refugee problem and to the excellent work of the United Nations Organisations in this field; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper, and I should like to start by thanking Her Majesty's Government very much for allowing me this day for the very important subject which we are going to debate this afternoon. It is three years since we had a debate on refuges and much has happened since then. I think your Lordships will agree that it is an important subject and one to which we can all turn our attention without any Party political implications of any kind.

Before I begin my speech, I should like to refer to one person who in her lifetime did more to help with refugee organisations than anybody I know. I refer to the late Dame May Curwen. Dame May died only a short time ago, and on an occasion of this kind I cannot refrain from mentioning what she did for refugees and for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She was chairman of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees Executive Committee in Geneva. She was a delegate from the United Kingdom to that Committee. For her work for refugees, she was awarded the Nansen Medal, the highest award that the United Nations can give. She was chairman of the British Council for Aid to Refugees and inspired me to undertake the chairmanship of the World Refugee Year appeal, thirteen years ago. I think a tribute should be paid to her because no one did more for refugees than she did.

To-day the chairman of the Standing Conference of the British Organisation for Aid to Refugees is the Member for Abingdon, Mr. Airey Neave, who is also a member of the United Nations High Commissioner's Executive Committee in Geneva. At the outset, I want to stress the importance of the British Standing Conference in bringing together 27 voluntary organisations, including all the different denominations of the Churches, the Jewish organisations interested in refugees and all the main voluntary organisations helping in different projects, from help for children to the aged; organisations such as the Save the Children Fund, Oxfam, the Salvation Army and many others, and in addition the three great voluntary organisations—the British Red Cross Society, the Order of St. John and the Women's Royal Voluntary Service. All these organisations are joined together in the Standing Conference and attend all the meetings and they form the spearhead of a great body of people in this country who are interested in, and work for, refugees. The Standing Conference co-ordinates and informs all those great bodies. It unites them, and Mr. Airey Neave, the Chairman, on going to Geneva can speak with authority, with the backing of all those organisations behind him. He is also the Government delegate to the United Nations High Commission in Geneva which meets in full session every year. There is therefore from our voluntary organisations in this country direct contact with the statutory bodies in Geneva.

My interest in the Standing Conference dates back to 1960–61 when, as Chairman of the World Refugee Year, I had the full support of all those organisations, and a great campaign in the United Kingdom raised more than £10 million on that occasion. This tremendous success was due in large part to the co-operation and enthusiasm of all these societies and millions of people throughout the country who helped. Those days are past when the main objective of the High Commissioner was to clear the camps in Europe, to help with the unfortunate victims of the Communist takeover of Hungary and the refugees who escaped from Russian Communism, whether from Russia, Poland, East Germany or Czechoslovakia. To-day, as you will hear in this debate, the main centres of oppression and terror for refugees are in Africa—South Sudan, Burundi, Uganda, Zaire and other places—and of course in Southern Asia, Vietnam, and also the Middle East. There are problems in Europe still, and I shall speak of them.

Reading the reports of the High Commissioner and his speeches, one is startled by the sudden problems which arise and over which no one seems to have control. I should like to quote one passage from the High Commissioner's speech to the 24th Meeting of the Executive Committee in Geneva this year. The High Commissioner said: Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, we operate in a very real world. We operate in a world where the U.N. High Commissioner does not engineer miracles, whatever the appearances may be. I am not saying this because I wish to shrug off our responsibilities. We have our responsibilities and our terms of reference, and we will continue of course to do our best. But between one's duty to try and one's ability to solve the problems at hand there may exist a very large gap. One has to explode the myth that it is enough for Governments to hand over their embarrassments, their problems with minorities, and difficulties with internal or external politics, to the High Commissioner or to the United Nations. I am not saying this at all in bitterness. I think I share my colleagues' pride in the achievements that we have been able to bring about in many areas. But if U.N.H.C.R. is not to over-extend itself in the future, with its limited resources in staff and funds, if we are not to spread ourselves too thin, before this Executive Committee and the General Assembly of the United Nations, then it seems to me that the governments must understand where our breaking-point lies. They must treat minorities fairly, and not simply expel people whom they regard as unwanted".

Reading those words makes one reflect that in 1973 man's inhumanity to man continues. How can we mitigate it? There are things we can be proud of in the United Kingdom. There are great numbers of people working for refugees: United Kingdom organisations such as Aid to Refugees which has established sheltered homes for the elderly, group homes for the mentally disturbed, the rehabilitation of geriatric patients, homes for the homeless—these are all part of their activities. There is the special work done by the organisation called Help the Aged; the wonderful work done for young people by the Save the Children Fund, the Ockenden Venture, the Pestolozzi Children's Village Trust, the Salvation Army, and many more. We can be proud of this continuing work, and also of the world-wide work done by the great Red Cross organisation and the Order of St. John. These magnificent organisations are organisations that we all support and of which many people are members. We can indeed be proud of them.

The importance of keeping the Standing Conference as the co-ordinating body for these societies is vital, and the money which the World Refugee Year allocated to finance that body is running out and should be replaced by a small Government grant. This could be something as small as £1,500 or £2,000. It would help the Government to see that this Conference (which helps their own United Nations Department and in which they can deal with one person, namely, Mr. Airey Neave) should be a vital and important part of the organisation. This Conference has had very important people as its chairmen—Mr. George Thomson, now one of the Commissioners at the E.E.C.; Lord Lothian, a Member of your Lordships' House, among others. All these people have made great contributions, and this has been of tremendous help to the Government.

To-day, this Conference is in difficulties over its finance, and I think the Government should do something to see that it can continue as it has done in the past, for it provides a forum for discussion, for exchange of information between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the organisations, and between the Department of Overseas Aid (another Department engaged in refugee work) and the delegates attending the Conference in Geneva. The administration of the Conference is minimal—one secretary and one assistant. In other countries, such as Denmark and Norway, the Governments support the co-ordination of the work for refugees. I should like the noble Lord who is to reply carefully to consider the importance of this small and effective administration for which the cost is minimal. In other spheres of voluntary work the Government show great generosity. It is particularly in the interests of the Department of Overseas Aid to see that the Conference continues. The High Commissioner has to be ready for every emergency, most of which are quite unpredictable.

In 1974, the High Commissioner proposes to spend 8,739,000 dollars, 1 million dollars more than he spent in 1973. These projects cover 24 countries, including countries in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, India and the Far East. Other noble Lords are going to deal in this debate with Africa, Latin America, India and Bangladesh. I propose to talk about Europe and the Middle East. The main European countries still helping with refugees are Austria, France. West Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey. Austria has always been in the forefront of this problem because she is so close to the boundaries of the Communist countries, and people escaping from tyrannies in those countries often go straight to Austria. Austria has played a great part in helping the refugees, either in settling them in Austria, as they have done in great numbers, or in passing them on to other countries for resettlement. I pay tribute to what they have done. But I regret the closing of the organisation which they had to help the Russian Jewish refugees. I hope that, after second thoughts, that Government may continue to do something to help the Russian Jewish refugees.

Italy has a permanent number of refugees, a figure approaching 12,600. The Italians have also in the current year helped the Ugandan Asians passing through Italy. Spain has about the same number, and has helped several thousands from the Caribbean who have passed through for resettlement to Latin American countries, Canada and Australia. France had 110,000 refugees in 1972, and more are coming. These refugees are being settled by the High Commissioner and the French Government. Germany is helping refugees from South America, also from Cuba and from the Middle East. Greece has 900 refugees living on assistance from the High Commissioner. This is not adequate. The High Commissioner is giving assistance to the Greek Government for the living expenses of the refugees. Turkey has a small number, about 2,000, which are being looked after.

My Lords, one of the High Commissioner's recent projects is for handicapped refugees. This is a growing problem and is largely a problem of the aged. The High Commissioner has asked for the nations to accept ten handicapped refugees each year. This is known as the "Ten or More Plan", and has met with a generous response, particularly from Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, France, Australia and New Zealand. In the United Kingdom the voluntary organisation known as Help the Aged is co-operating with the High Commissioner and his organisation and with other refugee societies in what is a very special problem all over the world. The focus of attention is now on the events in Africa, in Bangladesh and in Pakistan.

As I have said, this subject will be mentioned by other noble Lords, so I turn to the problem of the Middle East and the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, U.N.R.W.A, I have known U.N.R.W.A. since I first visited Jordan, Gaza and Lebanon in 1961, and also Israel in that year and after the 1967 war. I have visited many schools and education establishments which have been started with the help of money given by U.N.R.W.A. The two largest contributors have been the United States and the United Kingdom. The origins of this organisation are well-known. It was established in 1948 after the Arab refugees left Palestine, which resulted in the establishment of the State of Israel. Immediately afterwards, 70,000 Arabs returned to Israel, which raised the Arab population in Israel to 160,000. In 1949 Israel offered to take back another 100,000 refugees, but at that time, Arab policy was all or nothing, so the refugees did not return. In 1950 U.N.R.W.A. offered to take 150,000 Arab refugees in the Gaza Strip for resettlement in Libya, but this was refused. In 1951, U.N.R.W.A. managed to get the agreement of Egypt to bring 70,000 refugees from Gaza to the piece of land known as El Arish in the Sinai Peninsula, but this, too, failed. In 1952 Israel returned the bank balances held by Arab refugees up to 10 million dollars, but there was no release the other way.

There have been many attempts and many offers by the Israeli Government to deal with the Arab refugees, but the Arab countries have responded only on the basis of all or nothing. So it is only fair to remember, in looking at the problem of Arab refugees, that many suggestions have been made and rejected. In the meantime, U.N.R.W.A. has provided food and shelter and education for the Arab refugees. Israel has provided education, including technical education of the most advanced kind, for the Arabs living in Israel. I have seen the improvement in agriculture, fruit growing, irrigation and industry, in which Arabs participate whole heartedly. The employment of Arabs, even during the last tragic war, has continued, and the bridges over the Jordan between Jordan and Israel have remained open and transit back and forth has been continuing.

The number of Arab refugees since 1967 who have been resettled in proper houses and integrated into the industry and agriculture of the country continues all the time; and the number of Jewish refugees from Russia and from Arab countries who have been absorbed into Israel and given the opportunity to start life afresh has now run into a million or more. Nevertheless, the problem of permanent settlement of Arab refugees remains. The present situation, dangerous as it is, we all hope may lead to a settlement. For the first time representatives of Israel and Egypt are meeting under the auspices of the United Nations general who is in command of the United Nations peace-keeping force, and the Prime Minister of Israel and the Foreign Secretary have said that given direct negotiations, some solution might be agreed. Certainly the price of no agreement is something no one can possibly want to pay yet again. U.N.R.W.A. tried to help, but political interests mitigate against this organisation. There are now growing up some generations who have never been living in Palestine and who could, and would, integrate into any friendly Arab State or into Israel, as they have done, if and when political opinions would allow. Our Foreign Secretary, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, summed up the position in a speech two years ago, when he said: We cannot support any political programme which would involve the disappearance of the State of Israel. This is what the Palestinian resistance organisations at present demand. But we must work for a settlement which will attract the agreement of all the peoples of the area, including the Palestinians, and which takes account of their legitimate aspirations. This is what we must aim for, my Lords; but it is a problem which has baffled everyone since the programme began in 1950.

There are over half a million children in U.N.R.W.A. schools, and there is a great shortage of teachers. One hundred and fifty classrooms have been built in new schools and 161 new rooms are under construction. The vocational training schools which have always been a very good feature of U.N.R.W.A. schools and technical training colleges are operating in Lebanon and in Amman, but without a programme for those who leave schools there is of course much frustration. The Governments of the Arab countries could encourage trained men to seek work in their areas, and Israel does employ a great number of Arab trainees. U.N.R.W.A. has 95 health clinics, and 13 other health units are provided by voluntary agencies and 11 by Governments. In Gaza a new health centre is under construction and 3 old centres in Syria are being replaced.

When I was last in Israel I visited a maternity clinic and child welfare centre in which all the doctors were provided by the Israeli Government and all the patients were Arabs, and they worked together very peacefully. Once it is possible to organise and run any social services away from the political influences, and inspired only by the desire to help and to heal, then the problem fades into the background. The moment quarrelling and fighting starts then old divisions reappear and everything reverts back again. This is nothing if not disturbing for all who pray and work for a settlement in the area.

On the West bank of Jordan co-operation with Israel continues, and in spite of inflation the material benefits of the refugees in higher wages and steady employment were obvious. In Gaza, where there has been much criticism of the Israeli Government for building roads and knocking down houses, 873 families have been re-housed while 706 families are still in need of better accommodation, which is gradually being provided. Developments there in citrus and other agricultural products increase every year, and more and more people are being employed in the area where, in the past, the situation was static and no one was allowed to leave.

U.N.R.W.A. is dependent on voluntary contribution and the United States is the largest donor. The United Kingdom, the second largest donor, gives 5 million dollars a year. Even with this there will be a deficit of between 4.2 million dollars this year. The Soviet Union and the Eastern European Countries, except for small contributions from Rumania and Yugoslavia, make no contributions. We hope that out of the peace talks will come some policy which will relieve the situation with which U.N.R.W.A. is faced.

I said in the beginning that the problems in the African countries and in India and Bangladesh were the areas claiming most from the High Commissioner in 1973. The United Kingdom has given generously to the special appeals: three quarters of a million pounds to the resettlement in South Sudan, for instance; £20 million to Bangladesh; £350,000 for Ugandan refugees, with £25,000 spent in airlifts provided by the R.A.F. In spite of that fact, the United Kingdom's contribution to the U.N.H.C.R. main fund is now the fifth, instead of being second or third of the European countries. We should, I think, be more generous in contributions to the U.N.H.C.R. organisation. We give £210,000, which is not a large sum. Voluntary organisations raise millions of pounds every year for the work on refugees. This is in itself a testimony to the concern of the British people to help the High Commissioner. If Her Majesty's Government had to raise the money which is raised by the voluntary organisations I do not know where they would be. This vast sum of money which comes in every year from the people is quite remarkable. I do not believe, my Lords, that anyone in the United Kingdom would resent a more generous contribution to the work which in humanitarian terms brings a rich reward.

Finally, I would suggest that there should be one department in the Foreign Office which deals with all the refugee problems. It would simplify things for M.Ps. who want to know about these matters. It would better serve the voluntary organisations operating in that field, and it would save time and money. Although in the Foreign Office there are regional experts sitting at desks in different parts of the building, there is no central person or department bringing together all the information required or able to answer general as well as specific questions. This function is performed on behalf of thirty voluntary agencies by the Standing Conference, and for this important work at present they get no financial help from the Government. Again, I would stress that the Government should give a small grant (I have mentioned £1,000 to £2,000) to help with the continuation of this Conference. The Government give quite a large amount of help to other voluntary organisations, such as the Voluntary Committee on Overseas Aid and Development. Why not a small part to the Standing Conference? The Government would save more than this by saving people writing memoranda and passing documents backwards and forwards in the labyrinths of Whitehall.

My Lords, there are many political subjects which divide us in this House, but to-day we are united in our one desire to help the work of the U.N.H.C.R. The only question is: are we doing enough? I am sure that we could do more, and I am sure that the nation will support the Government wholeheartedly if they do. I beg to move for Papers.

3.19 p.m.


My Lords, the poet Tagore wrote: This man's body is so small, his strength for suffering so immense". I was very struck with that quotation to be found in one of the U.N. documents, and I thought also of the words of a Swiss journalist returning from a visit to one of the refugee camps in India, when he wrote, It is as though the evil one was there in person, insolent and destructive like in a drawing from Holbein. My Lords, my experience with refugees is very limited compared with that of the noble Baroness. I remember going to Nigeria during the civil war and seeing the Biafrans, the Ibos, coming out of the enclave there, weary, hungry and frightened. The noble Baroness touched on Africa, and this is why I raise it here. What struck me most was not the voluntary services and the work of the United Nations Organisation but the extreme humanity of the Nigerian Army seeking to give relief to the refugees. I can remember how Colonel Adekunli—the Black Scorpion as he was referred to by the British Press, largely because his Divisional Ensign was an octupus—personally supervised some of the relief. If there is any example in Africa, I think Nigeria shows it, in the way in which, after a very cruel civil war, they went about reconciliation in a most marked degree.

My Lords, the noble Baroness was quite right to raise this debate, despite all our problems, despite the fact that we have not been able to deal with our own inequalities and hardships. It is right that we should discuss the problem of the refugees, and may I say how delighted we on this side are that the Leader of the House has decided himself to reply to this debate.

Like the noble Baroness, I would pay my tribute to the United Nations Agencies and the various voluntary bodies; and may I say how much I agree with her that the Permanent Committee should remain in being? My only criticism of the noble Baroness is that I think her plea for £1,000 or £2,000 is not very realistic. If she wants £2,000, surely her experience indicates that one must ask for a much higher sum, knowing that the Treasury will undoubtedly whittle it down. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, will accept that those who have experience in this field would wish to see the Permanent Committee remain in being, and that it should not have to be deeply concerned, as it is at present, in finding financial support for the foreseeable future. We must pay tribute, too, to the Uganda Asian Resettlement Board, and also, I think, the many Governments and peoples who in response to continual requests have provided aid in the most generous way.

My Lords, refugees are nothing new. One has only to read one's history to know that man's inhumanity to man is not something only of the 20th century. We in this country have over the centuries taken refugees from Europe, and it is well to recall that the United States took over 50 million in a century—not necessarily refugees seeking refuge from religious persecution or political persecution—many of them from Europe. In those days it was possible for a refugee relatively easily to resettle himself and improve his lot; but to-day circumstances are very different. We now have a much larger population; land is increasingly scarce, and one must also recognise that the aspirations of one's nationals are very much higher and they are therefore more chary about finding room for any large number of refugees. I agree with the noble Baroness that one of the lessons of Africa is not only the persecution that has arisen—there are some one million men and women refugees—but the fact that many African countries, although developing countries themselves with their own growing difficulties, have been able to find a home for these people.

It is no longer a national responsibility; it is no longer within the realm of any one country to deal with refugees. I think that fact was recognised immediately after the First World War, when the League of Nations set up its own Refugee Committee, I think in 1922. It is also true that the very first organisation the United Nations set up immediately after the 1939–45 war was an organisation to deal with refugees. There has been much criticism of the United Nations in the field of seeking peace, but if there is any field in which it has been vindicated it is in the field of dealing with refugees, not only political and religious refugees, but those who come as a consequence of natural disasters. I was struck by what U Thant said in September, 1971, when he was concerned as Secretary-General. He said: There are great humanitarian emergencies which the United Nations is not equipped to meet. I have on my own initiative and without any supporting Resolution from any United Nations organ launched two relief operations, one to bring assistance to the refugees and the other to help the civilian population in East Bengal, which are concerned with millions of people and expenditure of millions of dollars. That was action by the Secretary-General with no resolution of the United Nations. I think such action is a vindication of having that organisation in being.

The long-term role of the United Nations Organisation falls into three categories. First, there is what is called international protection; secondly, there is mediation and diplomacy; and thirdly, there is the important role which the noble Baroness touched upon, providing to the host nation adequate materials for settlement and assistance. In the international protection field, one needs to refer to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, which some 65 countries have supported. I hope that the Government will take an initiative at the United Nations to obtain greater support for both the Convention and the Protocol. There are a number of countries which have not acceded to this Convention and Protocol. I think, too, that we should recognise the O.A.U. Convention of 1962. True, it is not yet in being, because there are insufficient signatures to it, but I think the spirit of the Convention is being accepted and utilised by many African nations.

I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, can answer a number of questions in regard to the Convention and the Protocol. I understand that a questionnaire was sent out by the Secretary-General to seek the views of various member Governments on implementation, asking what steps have been taken by member Governments with regard to the Convention and the Protocol. The United Nations report shows that on March 31, 1973, the United Kingdom had not replied to that questionnaire: 36 countries had replied, but not the United Kingdom. It may be that we have answered by now. Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to tell us. If we have not answered that important questionnaire, I hope that we can press the noble Lord for action.

With regard to people who are stateless, who have no nationality, there has been pressure by the Secretary-General for legislation to ensure that those who are refugees living within a national territory should be entitled to the nationality of that country. I do not know whether the noble Lord can give us an answer on that point. In regard to employment, again the Convention and the Protocol require member countries which accept refugees to give them free access to employment. I understand that Her Majesty's Government have reserved their position in this matter. I wonder whether the noble Lord could tell us what were the reservations, and whether the Government would consider removing those particular reservations and bringing us into line with most other countries in regard to the Protocol and Convention. The question of social security is important. I understand that as a member of the E.E.C. we are bound by the Social Security Convention, and presumably all our social services are open to any refugee who is accepted into this country. Can the noble Lord say whether we now provide travel documents to any refugee that we accept into this country?

I stressed at the beginning the importance of mediation and diplomacy. We can take great pride for the United Nations in that, after 17 years of bitter hostility, there is now a settlement in the Sudan. I understand that some 1,800 refugees are now being returned to the Sudan from outside countries, and that some 500 refugees within the Sudan are being resettled. This is a major undertaking. There has to be provided not only the infrastructure—the housing, food and transport—but also the crops and the seeds, because these refugees are, in the main, agricultural people. The noble Baroness was right: the Government have been quite generous—you can never be too generous in these fields—and I think that the United Nations Organisation were particularly pleased and grateful for the R.A.F. support that the Government provided. I understand that approaches have been made to Her Majesty's Government for further assistance in helping the resettlement of the Sudanese refugees, and I wonder whether the noble Lord could give us any information on this matter.

In regard to Pakistan and Bangladesh, again one sees the importance of the United Nations' role. When war broke out Bangladesh was a sovereign State within a sovereign State, and clearly the role of independent countries, or voluntary organisations, was difficult. In such a case it is only a United Nations Organisation that can take the initiative and, in the end, is acceptable to a naturally proud Government. Here again the British Government have been quite generous. Apart from sums of money, they have also supplied two R.A.F. aircraft which have provided notable service. I understand that the Russian aircraft has now been withdrawn and that there has been a request to Her Majesty's Government for a further aircraft to help to move refugees from Bangladesh to Pakistan, or vice versa. I understand that the Government may be willing to offer money in lieu of an aircraft. I only say to the noble Lord the Leader of the House that I think that all experience is that the service of a Service aircraft is much more flexible, much more adaptable, in this field than that of a charter aircraft, and I wonder whether the noble Lord can say whether the British Government would be willing to provide a third aircraft to help in relief work in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

I come to Chile. I think that all Members of this House will deplore the overthrow of the President Allende Government in Chile. A grave situation exists there, and there is no doubt at all that the United Nations has been confronted with difficulties in seeking a view of, and information on, the refugee situation. I understand that prior to the overthrow of President Allende there were some 1,500 refugees in Chile, mainly from South America. What is their future as a consequence of the military overthrow? Then there are some 13,000 foreigners, and there are reports that they will be expelled by December 31 of this year. Can the Government give us some information on this matter? If there are to be further refugees from Chile, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will take a lead in finding places for settlement for some of them. I wonder whether the noble Lord can confirm or deny—and I prefer a denial—reports that the British Embassy in Chile has refused to give asylum. My information is that the other eight members of the E.E.C. have all willingly provided asylum to Chileans in their embassies and that only one embassy has refused, and that was the British Embassy. I find it hard to believe, but I hope that the noble Lord will give us an answer to that question when he replies.

I now come to Uganda. I think we did our duty in regard to our responsibility for those Asian refugees from Uganda who held British passports. There were some 4,500 Asians in Uganda who had undetermined nationality. Most of those have now been given a home, and one should pay particular tribute to Canada, which not only took some 4,500 British passport holders but also 1,500 who had an undetermined nationality. I recognise that as far as the undetermined nationality people are concerned it is an international responsibility, and I also recognise that Her Majesty's Government, and in particular Mr. Carr, the Home Secretary, have expressed sympathy and taken certain action. But my information is that there are to-day some 300 Asians with an undetermined nationality whose wives and families are now in the United Kingdom because they are British passport holders. One of the great principles behind the Protocol and the Convention is that so far as is humanly possible families should never be broken up. I recognise the difficulty, but I would beg Her Majesty's Government to do all they possibly can to ensure that these 300 with their wives and families in the United Kingdom should be permitted to come here and settle. We appreciate the difficulties in this respect, but I think it would be very much to our honour if we could at least remove these names from the United Nations' record.

The noble Baroness touched upon Palestine. This is of course a very special and acute problem. I believe that there are now some 1½ million men, women and children refugees in the Middle East. Some of them have been refugees since 1948, and some have perhaps known nothing else but a refugee camp. We hope that the negotiations which I think start next month will bring about a peace treaty and a final settlement in the Middle East. Clearly there can be no peace treaty, and no settlement, unless there is a satisfactory resettlement of the refugees in the Middle East. This will require a major international effort. It would be inconceivable to me that these refugees should be allowed to leave the basic security of the present refugee camps to go out into the desert. Clearly it will need an international effort for the provision of the infrastructure, the housing, irrigation, and all the things that are necessary for the creation of a community. Here would be not only a great opportunity to heal the wounds of the Middle East, but a tremendous opportunity, with all the knowledge and expertise we have in the West, for creating a new community of which the whole world could be proud.

My Lords, the noble Baroness spoke about the position of the United Nations Agency in the Middle East and the shortage of cash. This is due not to the failure of nations to provide voluntary contributions, but largely to the consequences of rising costs and devaluation. I believe that the consequence of this is some £3 or £4 million lost to the Agency across the exchanges. The Commissioner General of U.N.R.W.A. reporting on November 5, spoke very forcefully as to what the consequences will be unless new money is provided. The only alternative to new money is a very severe cut, particularly in the field of education. He went a little further in his report, and I think the words are well worth reading: If we are unsuccessful in closing the gap between income and expenditure the forces beyond our control which make for increases in expenditure have proved too strong, and so in the aftermath of yet another war in which hundreds of millions of dollars have been dissipated in a few weeks we must contemplate a reduction in the United Nations programme for Palestine refugees for the lack of 10 million dollars. In an earlier part of his speech the Commissioner General foresees that if the cuts envisaged to balance the accounts are necessary, all the U.N.R.W.A. programme in Palestine would collapse. I cannot believe that Her Majesty's Government and all the other contributors to the United Nations fund would tolerate such a position, particularly when we may be on the verge of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East, although it is a settlement that will take time to achieve.

My Lords, in conclusion I would say that when one thinks of refugees, one thinks normally of the pressures and the hardships that arise not only for the refugees themselves but, because of the added burdens, for the host nations as well. Dag HammarskjOld used, I thought, prophetic words when he spoke of refugees not as a liability but more justly as an asset to the future. I think if we of the West, the United Nations in particular, accept that, all the contributions that are needed will be forthcoming.