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General Assembly Urged to Give Unrwa More Funds or Face Cutback of Services

October 8, 1969
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The General Assembly received an urgent appeal today to provide more funds for Arab refugees or face a drastic curtailment of the services and facilities provided for them with resulting “further hardships . . . and political repercussions.” The appeal was contained in the annual report of Laurence Michelmore. commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Arab refugees (UNRWA), published here.

Mr. Michelmore reported that 1,395,074 refugees were currently registered with his agency. He predicted a deficit of between $3.3 million and $3.8 million for fiscal 1969 and warned that UNRWA was faced with the threat that its cash reserves would soon be exhausted–“perhaps early in 1970.”

The UNRWA chief said the agency had run a deficit in every year but one since 1963. He attributed the present crisis, however, to “the continuing consequences of the June. 1967 hostilities in the Middle East, including military occupation and the continued deferment of hope of return to their homes for all but a small fraction of those who had to move in 1967.” He maintained that any reduction of aid to the refugees “would have to be carried out against the opposition of the refugees themselves and of the Arab host governments.”

Mr. Michelmore’s report laid great stress on what he called the “uncertainty about the future which has hung over the heads of the refugees for 21 years.” The report covers the period from July 1, 1968 to June 30, 1969. It noted that prior to 1967, UNRWA provided assistance exclusively to refugees from those parts of Palestine which became Israel in 1948 who were living in Jordan. Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip. Since June, 1967, however, it has been providing assistance “on an emergency basis and as a temporary measure” to refugees displaced by the Arab-Israeli war. Of the latter, only a limited return has been possible and as a consequence INRWA found itself providing aid to more than 200,000 displaced refugees and other persons in Syria and East Jordan, the report said.


“The refugees continue to express their disappointment and disillusionment over the delay in the realization of the hopes to return to their places of residence before June, 1967, their hopes for repatriation to their original homes or compensation for those not choosing to return.” the report said. “In the meantime, the refugees were confronted constantly with the physical dangers and tensions resulting from hostilities across the cease-fire lines. They felt the frustrations and fears of measures taken for security reasons, such as curfews, interrogations, detentions and demolition of buildings, and this had a detrimental effect on their morale.”

The Michelmore report said the flight of most refugees to East Jordan in the wake of the 1967 war created the “painful anomaly” of well-equipped refugee camps on the West Bank being only partly occupied “while their former inhabitants lived in barely tolerable conditions” in East Jordan. The report stated that “shelling, air raids and other hostilities” added to the strains of exile and emergency conditions there.

The same stresses were felt by the 240,000 refugees remaining on the West Bank where, “as the period of occupation lengthened and the prospect of a settlement seemed to recede, demonstrations, strikes and bomb explosions became more frequent and led to security counter-measures by the Israeli military authorities. This action and reaction dislocated the work of schools and training centers and imposed extra strains on the agency’s staff.” the report said.

According to Mr. Michelmore, the situation was worse in the Gaza Strip where “strikes and incidents of violence were an almost continuous feature of life.” He stated that his agency had not escaped some of the consequences such as arrests, detention and imprisonment of staff for alleged illegal activities outside their official duties. The UNRWA camps are staffed almost entirely by Arabs.

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