HC Deb 29 March 1956 vol 550 cc236-8W
Mr. Russell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what relief measures are being carried out under the grant-in-aid for the relief of Palestinian refugees and what progress is being made with their rehabilitation.

Lord John Hope

I will deal first with relief.

According to the last Annual Report of the Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (U.N.R.W.A.) adopted at the General Assembly of the United Nations in November last, the Agency issues 836,000 whole rations among 906,000 refugees. Certain classes (children between six months and two years; pregnant and nursing women; and others according to medical advice) benefit from supplementary feeding. Children under one year, who do not receive the basic ration, receive 1,200 grammes of whole milk daily.

Thirty-seven per cent. of the refugees live in camps; tents are being replaced by huts; and shelter is provided for those refugees who had previously lived in extreme squalor outside the camps.

Last year's good health record resulted partly from the teaching of the Agency's health education staff (twenty trained workers in November, 1955), the establishment of a school health service, the provision of preventive medicine, mass immunisation campaigns, and the effective teaching of hygiene. Refugees suffering from infectious tuberculosis are segregated and cared for in local government hospitals, a missionary tuberculosis hospital on the West Bank, and in the Agency's tuberculosis hospital opened in Jordan last year especially for refugees.

Other relief operations have included drought relief with water tankers in February last year. The Agency contemplates also improvements in the scale of relief including supplementary rations for children, the distribution of additional kerosene, and the provision of cloth for children's wear. Clothing as such is provided by voluntary associations; U.N.R.W.A. merely distributes it.


Ten thousand refugees were officially resettled in the five years ending June, 1955. The biggest obstacles to resettlement are the absence of a general Arab-Israel settlement, and the unwillingness of the majority of the refugees to settle outside Palestine. Economic obstacles arise from the inability of the economies of Jordan. Gaza and the Lebanon to absorb all their refugee population.

U.N.R.W.A. has funds and plans for resettlement projects. Her Majesty's Government sponsored a United Nations Resolution of 3rd December, 1955, which called upon all concerned for a determined effort to rehabilitate substantial numbers of refugees.

Among the current projects, which should enable refugees to become self-supporting are: A tent factory near Jericho which provides a livelihood for about 750 people; Five small agricultural villages in the Jordan Valley, in which a total of 176 families have been established; Loans of nearly 1 million dollars through the Jordan Development Bank, largely financed by U.N.R.W.A., which in turn have financed 141 farmers or farm projects and 16 commercial projects; Many grants to individuals for their own small businesses; An experimental desert farm in Syria housing fifty families; Afforestation of part of the Gaza strip to protect potentially productive land; Rug weaving, sewing and embroidery projects in Gaza, to be duplicated in Syria, Jordan and the Lebanon.

Major progress in resettlement awaits the outcome of technical and political discussions on two major irrigation projects, one for the Jordan Valley (known as the Johnston Plan), and the other for the Western Sinai Desert in Egypt. Over a period of years the two projects together might provide a livelihood for as many as 200,000 refugees.

Apart from the specific resettlement projects U.N.R.W.A. is devoting considerable attention to vocational training and university education as a growing part of its programme. Also expanding are the fundamental or adult educational activities engaged in last year (1954–55) by nearly 45,000 refugees in the Agency's 39 fundamental educational centres.