U. N. Report Blames Arab Govts. for Plight of Palestine Refugees
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U. N. Report Blames Arab Govts. for Plight of Palestine Refugees

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“It will take many years” before the Arab refugees in the Middle East can get along without relief, and one of the principal causes for their present circumstances is the “reluctance or inability” of the Arab governments to help their own compatriots, the UN General Assembly will be told officially tomorrow.

The entire problem of Arab refugee relief and rehabilitation comes before the General Assembly tomorrow in the report of Henry R. Labouisse, director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. The Agency, known as UNRWA, cared for a total of 887,000 Arab refugees as of the end of last June, according to Mr. Labouisse. Of the total, 486,000 live in Jordan; over 212,000 in Gaza; more than 101,000 in Lebanon; and about 86,000 in Syria.

It is obvious from Mr. Labouisse’s report that the figure of 887,000 refugees is based on a considerable number of false, or “improper” registrations. “There are undoubtedly,” he reports, “numerous improper registrations.” However, he points out, neither the refugees themselves nor the Arab governments where they live have been willing to help the Agency to clear the rolls of “persons not entitled to rations or other assistance.”

Past resolutions of the General Assembly had expressed the hope that the Palestine refugee problem might be solved, at the latest, by the summer of 1954. But, according to Mr. Labouisse, “the achievement of such a result in so short a period of time was a practical impossibility.” In polite, diplomatic language–but clearly and with force–the UNRWA director points the finger at the Arab governments and at the refugees themselves for UNRWA’s inability to solve the problem.


The Arab governments, Mr. Labouisse declares, have “not been prepared to undertake with the Agency the development of some promising rehabilitation projects.” The Arab governments, he states, have mostly given to the refugees “inadequate” physical resources, have assigned to them agricultural lands “marginal at best–and, in some cases, unusable,” have refused to allow them to get jobs on the ground that “their economies cannot at present absorb any significant number of people unexpectedly entering the labor market,” and have refused “to accept administrative responsibility for the relief program.”

One “very important obstacle” to attainment of the General Assembly’s goal regarding the Arab refugees, Mr. Labouisse reports, is the absence of a solution regarding repatriation and compensation. Apart from that,” however, he points out, “the slow progress” can be attributed to “the meagerness of the physical resources made available” to the refugees by the Arab governments; in part to “the attitude of the refugees”; and in some cases to the attitude of the Arab governments which “have served to make progress difficult.”

The report does not mention Israel at all in its principal sections, only alluding to Israel obliquely in discussing the present state of “repatriation and compensation” of the Arab refugees. In one section, however, discussing UNRWA’s dealing with other UN agencies, Mr. Labouisse reports the successful cooperation received from the Palestine Conciliation Commission. It is through negotiations with this commission that Israel a year ago released 1,000,000 pounds of blocked Arab bank accounts, Mr. Labouisse reports. Only two weeks ago, Israel announced that all remaining blocked Arab bank accounts will be released as a result of a further agreement with the Conciliation Commission.

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