UNITED NATIONS, N. Y. (Nov. 9)
The United Nations General Assembly was warned here today that the Arab refugee problem still poses a danger to the peace and stability of the Middle East. The warning was given in a report submitted to the Assembly by Laurence Michelmore, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.
Mr. Michelmore, who took over the post 10 months ago from Dr. John H. Davis, another American who was Commissioner General for five years, indicated in his report that he is merely continuing the policies of his predecessor. However, his report differs from those of his predecessor by laying considerable stress on the need to rectify the UNRWA relief rolls, known to contain the names of many “refugees” who are dead and others ineligible for UNRWA relief.
For the first time in the history of UNRWA, which started operating in 1950, the new chief told the Assembly he will file a supplementary report, this year, dealing with the problem of “segregating the eligible from the ineligible persons on the rolls.” For the first time, too, the annual UNRWA report provided at least a tentative breakdown of the percentages of Arab refugees who are not totally destitute and who might, for that reason, be taken off the rolls entirely or have their UNRWA aid reduced.
ARABS CHARGED BY U. N. COMMISSIONER WITH NON-COOPERATION
Noting obliquely that the Arab “host” governments–Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon–and the refugees themselves have not cooperated with UNRWA in its efforts to obtain reliable statistics on the extent of the need among the refugees, Mr. Michelmore stressed that as many as 50 percent of the refugees may not be entirely destitute. Since he reported that 878, 901 of the refugees are registered for rations, it is assumed that the actual relief rolls may be subject to total or partial reduction of aid to about 400, 000 to 435, 000 ration card holders.
“Reliable information about the economic status of individual refugee families,” Mr. Michelmore reported, “is hard to come by.” He said the refugees could be divided into three categories. “The consensus of informed opinion within the Agency, ” he continued, “suggests that the first category–the destitute and near destitute–may at present constitute some 40 to 50 percent of the whole; that the intermediate category of partially self-supporting–who are nevertheless still in need of help from UNRWA–maybe some 30 to 40 percent; and that the third category–those who now appear to be securely reestablished–may represent 10 to 20 percent. ” He gave the total of all refugees on the UHRWA registration rolls as 1, 246, 585.
“The host governments, ” he stated, “have expressed reservations about both the substance of these conjectural estimates and the propriety of including them in this report. They have, however, agreed on the need to obtain factual information on which more reliable estimates could be based and have indicated their readiness to cooperate in carrying out a survey to establish degrees of need and the varying categories of economic status among the refugees. “
Mr. Michelmore noted that UNRWA is already budgeting a reduction of relief costs for next year by about $600, 000, and that many refugee children are being kept off the ration rolls until those rolls are rectified. “The Agency, ” he reported, “proposes to continue its established policy of inscribing on the rolls in each host country eligible children from the waiting lists in place of ineligible persons deleted from those rolls.”
“But, ” he pointed out, “after allowing for this, the Agency believes, from its knowledge of the present state of the ration rolls, that a cut of this size in the provision for rations could be absorbed without detriment to refugees in need, including children on the waiting lists, if the host governments and refugees themselves will cooperate with the agency in segregating the eligible from the ineligible persons on the rolls. “
ASKS FOR $37,000, 000 BUDGET FOR 1965; U. S. LARGEST CONTRIBUTOR
Mr. Michelmore’s report–for the period from July 1, 1963 to June 30, 1964–reminded the Assembly that UNRWA’s current mandate will expire June 30, 1965, and that, therefore, this year’s Assembly must decide what to do further about the future of UNRWA or about other forms of care for the Arab refugee.
Citing the previous reports made by Dr. Davis, or quoting from those documents, Mr. Michelmore noted that the Arab refugee problem must be viewed as one of long-range importance. “During the year,” he informed the Assembly, “no discernible progress has been made toward a solution of the Palestine refugee problem. “
On the assumption that the Assembly will vote for continuance of UNRWA, Mr. Michelmore asked for a 1965 budget totaling $37, 000, 000, an increase of only $100, 000 above the estimated expenditures for 1964. The figures showed that, since 1950, UNRWA has received from governments a total of $482,589,684. Of that amount, the United States contributed $340,668, 069.