WASHINGTON (Mar. 16)
The Palestinians displaced in the Arab-Israeli wars are “permanent refugees” and should be absorbed by the Arab world, State Department Counselor Edward Derwinski told reporters Friday.
Derwinski, who recently returned from travels related to refugee affairs that included Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, had been asked at a briefing which refugee groups he thought were the most forgotten. The Indochinese boat people, he said, are one forgotten group, while, “from a political standpoint,” the Palestinians in the camps of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency constitute another.
Derwinski blamed the plight of the Palestinians in part on “a number of Arab governments who don’t want to recognize the facts of life that these people are in fact permanent refugees. “With some two million people in Palestinian refugee camps, some for more than 30 years, Derwinski said, “to think of them as pawns in a political game I find very personally upsetting.”
The State Department Counselor, whose functions include the handling of refugee issues, added in response to questions that “the blame lies on both sides,” rather than just the Arab world. But he asserted that the Palestinian refugee problem is a permanent one and that Arab states should act accordingly.
“The fact of life is that the Palestinian refugees have permanently been displaced. This is just a fact,” Derwinski said. “Now, on the other hand, it is also a fact that refugees–at least the Palestinian refugees–would be better served if they were absorbed in many of the countries in which they reside. Those who wish should be granted local citizenship and the realities of life accepted.”