Médiation, surveillance de la trêve, réfugiés, propositions pour un règlement pacifique ("plan de Bernadotte") - Médiateur des Nations Unies pour la Palestine - Rapport sur l'état d'avancement Français
Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter
ASSISTANCE TO REFUGEES
I. NATURE OF THE PROBLEM
The number of refugees
1. as a result of the conflict in Palestine, almost the whole of the Arab population fled or was expelled from the area under Jewish occupation. This included the large Arab populations of Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, Ramleh and Lydda. Of a population of somewhat more than 400,000 Arabs prior to the outbreak of hostilities, the number presently estimated as remaining in Jewish-controlled territory is approximately 50,000. On the other hand, it is estimated that some 7,000 Jewish women and children from Jerusalem and various areas occupied by the Arabs sought refuge within Jewish-controlled territory.
2. As of 10 September 1948, confirmed estimates (which may be subject to later modification owing to migratory movements, addition of those who have exhausted their personal resources, and certain others who have been in biding in isolated areas) give a total of 360,000 Arab refugees, distributed approximately as follows:
The remaining are scattered along access roads or distributed in tiny isolated communities or hiding places over a wide area.*
3. This situation reached an acute stage owing to the fact that just before the second truce (18 July 1948) Ramleh and Lydda, to which many thousands had fled from Jaffa and other localities, also fell. Moreover, while those who had fled in the early days of the conflict had been able to take with them some personal effects and assets, many of the late-comers were deprived of everything except the cloths in which they stood, and apart from their homes (many of which were destroyed) lost all furniture and assets, and even their tools of trade.
4. By the terms of resolution 186(S-2) adopted by the General Assembly on 14 May 1948, the promotion of the welfare of the inhabitants of Palestine was included among my responsibilities. By the middle of July the refugee problem had become grave and it was apparent to me that urgent measures had to be taken from humanitarian reasons. Moreover, the refugee problem is intimately related to the problem of Palestine settlement. When subsequently an appeal fro the League of Arab States was addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and transmitted tome late in July, I took prompt action. This appeal, after drawing attention to the creation of a bureau at Cairo to organize and coordinate to aid and assist them, added:
The Executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the International Refugee organization, to whom this request was referred by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in replying expressed doubts as to the eligibility of the Arab refugees, under Annex I of the constitution of the International Refugee Organization, but added:
“even if this could be established, the Preparatory commission nevertheless regretfully concludes that prior claim on its limited resources would still be had by a large number of persons the Organization had not yet been able to assist, but which have long had urgent refugee status. Such priorities taken together with restricted financial position would make difficult any assumption of new operating responsibilities in areas in question”.
2. Palestinian Arabs are not citizens of the Arab States I which they have sought refuge. In Arab Palestine they were without the care or protection of any recognized government, and the existing local and community authorities were unable to meet the necessities of a body of refugees that in some instances outnumbered the local residents b approximately 2:1. They had been under the Palestine Administration of the United Kingdom as Mandatory Power. Upon the termination of that Mandate on 15 May 1948, as residents of Palestine they were in a territory for whose future the United Nations had assumed responsibility.
3. In Arab occupied Palestine a rapid preliminary survey of the social situation was completed on 7 August 1948 and, on the basis of observation and a random sampling of 500 small units, it was estimated that 12 per cent of the refugee population consisted of infants from 0-2 years of age; 18 per cent from 3-5 years of age; 36 per cent from 6-18 years of age; while slightly more than 10 per cent were pregnant women and nursing mothers. To these should be added some 8 per cent of aged, sick or infirm people, representing in all a vulnerable total of approximately 85 per cent. Early refugee groups had been accommodated in houses, but later groups congested and overflowed all available forms of shelter. Some 22 per cent were simply camped on the ground under trees. Water supplies were inadequate, unprotected and a menace to health by infection and lack of control. In most places there was absolutely no sanitary accommodation, and since water was drawn from surface collections, and typhoid is endemic, grave possibilities in this regard at this season of the year were likely. In fact, an examination of a number of cases in the Ramallah area showed 49 positive typhoid fever cases (6 August 1948).
4. As regards food, an attempt was being made to issue bread (in most places facilities for cooking or baking were absent), and in some localities a small issue of money was being made to refugees in order that they might supplement the standard issue of 500 grammes of bread per day with a few olives, tomatoes, lentils etc. Actually, this issue of bread was irregular both in amount and distribution.
5. There was virtually no provision among the great mass of the Arab refugees for the special needs of infants, young children, nursing mothers, pregnant women, the aged or the sick. The hospital accommodation throughout the whole area has been at all times far below the recognized basic provision. It is therefore completely inadequate to the requirements of a refugee population consisting largely of vulnerable groups. Registered doctors, nurses and other medical auxiliary personnel are similarly deficient in number. The lack of clothing and bedding was already a matter of great discomfort and cause for complaint. With the onset of cold and rainy weather about the middle of October, it was not only likely that it would become a serious problem, but the fact that the water supply was barely sufficient for drinking purposes, and quite insufficient for washing clothes or the cleanliness of body or hair, multiplied the possibilities that typhus and perhaps relapsing fever would be greatly increased. The absence of water also handicapped the treatment of the grossly prevalent eye diseases. Apart from typhoid and some endemic enteritis and dysentery, no major risks were immediately apparent, but circumstances were favourable to the establishment both of minor and major water-borne and insect-borne diseases of an epidemic character.
(a) Food and protected water supplies adequate in quantity and regularly distributed;
(b) Preventive medical provision against epidemic disease by inoculation, and hospital provision on and emergency basis;
(c) Work of activity to occupy the attention of the refugees;
(d) Tentage accommodation for 60,000 persons before 15 October;
(e) Clothing and bedding.
(a) Immediate relief of absolute basic needs;
(b) A programme from September to December 1948 inclusive, based on exact figures obtained by registration, and a skilled study by experts as to the whole supply, transportation and distribution aspects of a planned programme; and
(c) A long-range programme if, as appears inevitable, operations would need to be continued through the winter of 1948 and until August-September 1949, when harvesting will be completed.
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund
1. the first portion of this programme involved an immediate estimate of the availability of emergency relief in terms of supplies and personnel. On 12 august 1948, therefore, in virtue of paragraph II, 1, (c) of General Assembly resolution 186(S-20), I invited the United Nations International children’s Emergency Fund to consider assisting me in carrying out certain of my responsibilities in respect of the children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, who constitute an estimated three-quarters of the Arab refugee total. On 13 August 1948, Dr. M. Kahany, the representative at Geneva of the Provisional Government of Israel, requested that similar facilities should be extended to his Government in respect of Arab and Jewish women and children (some 12,000 children and some 8,000 women) in the areas under Jewish control. Both these proposals were recommended and sent forward to the Executive Board of the Children’s Fund which, at its meeting on 17 august 1948, was convinced that an emergency situation existed in which Fund could be of assistance, and that such assistance was within the competence of the Fund (document E/ICEF/75). I had asked for an appropriation equivalent (plus shipping) to $796,000 for the Arab refugees. The Executive Board, however, after adjusting the request to include the increased numbers mentioned as requiring relief by the representative of the Provisional Government of Israel, excluded cereals and agreed to provide a global sum not to exceed $411,000 plus shipping costs, allocating that amount for a two months’ programme. This allocation, although less than requested, has served as the foundation for the programme of immediate relief.
4. During the course of these negotiations, steps had been taken to determine the facilities that existed for intake and warehousing of supplies at Beirut; exemption of imports from duty; free transportation within the countries concerned and to any part of Arab Palestine; and the degree of organization that existed from the point of view of distribution of supplies as a decentralized operation, to be carried out by the various countries concerned, and the supervision of that distribution. Satisfactory progress in this regard has been made with the League of Arab States, and preliminary agreements have been signed between the Governments of Lebanon and of Syria, and myself.
5. Meanwhile, the government of Egypt and the International Red Cross and other bodies had made available considerable quantities of medical stores and inoculation material, and local programmes had been introduced on a somewhat sporadic basis in Arab Palestine; the Governments of Lebanon and of Syria had also carried out a considerable amount of work in respect of registration of refugees, inoculations and similar procedures. The British Foreign Office had been approached and steps taken to secure tents for the tentage areas, as it was considered these would become increasingly necessary as autumn passed into winter. The first consignment of 2,500 ten-man tents was procured during August. An encouraging response was made by the League of Red Cross Societies and the committee of the International Red Cross (which arranged to work in unison); and also by the World council of Churches, to direct appeals for aid from me; and, organizational arrangements were set in hand by both bodies. Enquiries for information were also received from other organizations, which are presently considering their capacity to assist.
Food and Agriculture Organization
3. The Directory-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization, immediately upon request and in conjunction with Haffnawy Pasha, Director of its Near East Regional Officer, agreed to make available two officers, Dr. Kirk and Professor Abbassy, to survey the situation form the point of view of the immediate and potential production picture of Palestine and the surrounding countries, having in mind the bad harvests of 1946 and 1947 in certain areas; the impossibility of the collection of a normal harvest in 1948 owing to war and consequential damage, and the disruption of labour; the dislocation of the usual norms in those countries, consequent upon the influx of great numbers of refugees; and, other related circumstances. These investigations are being undertaken in September.
6. It was not felt necessary to provide medical aid for refugees in the Jewish-controlled areas of Palestine, since medical and hospital facilities are more than adequate there. On the other hand, there is an acute shortage of medical and hospital facilities in the Arab parts of Palestine. The Arabs are similarly lacking in welfare centres, and other special provisions. The Jewish-controlled areas, in fact, contain almost all the public and private hospitals and bacteriological laboratories of Palestine.
9. My function, at this stage, is to meet the immediate emergency by a short-term programme, and to meet it as economically and efficiently as possible, more especially by minimizing that duplication and overlapping which is inevitable in any series of parallel operations. My primary objective, therefore, has been to combine these operations by consent within a unified plan. Secondly, and for the same reasons, I am attempting to decentralize the whole operation to the greatest possible degree, through local national committees of approved status, competent to give an adequate discharge for supplies, and competent also to ensure their distribution through subsidiaries at all appropriate levels, until they finally and equitably reach the refugees, through the co-operation of all concerned. This involves the provision b the Arab States of the transportation and other facilities mentioned previously in paragraph III. 4. Final negotiations in respect of these matters are proceeding at the present time, and it is believed will shortly be successful, and fully operative.
10. It is believed that the degree of success in the relief effort will materially depend on the degree to which complete integration is secured. As the burden is increasingly taken up by the countries in which the refugees have sought refuge, together with those who are assisting them with funds and supplies, it is anticipated that it will be possible to follow a policy of disengagement which will not involve undue hardship to any contributing party. The present unavailability of resources for a large or continuing activity conducted by the United Nations through myself as Mediator, is the major consideration in the establishment of a policy of co-ordination of activity at the highest level, with decentralization of the practical activities and early disengagement, as mentioned above. From the outset, it was apparent that the extreme stringency of the budgetary position in the United Nations made it impossible to anticipate the provision for this project of more than a nominal amount of funds for administrative purposes. The programme, therefore, has been to some extent subordinated to this requirement, and wherever possible has relied upon donations, not only of material but of the second services of officers with specialized training and experience.
12. At the refugee level, assistance and supervisory activity as to the degree of efficiency and equity with which supplies are distributed to the refugees and with which medical provision is made for their welfare, with it is hoped, be provided by volunteers seconded from the International Red Cross, the World Council of churches, and other voluntary agencies cooperating with the Arab officers concerned. Negotiations to this effect are presently in progress. Arab committees at all appropriate levels, from Government committees to village and camp committees, will cooperate in all practical operations.
13. At the United Nations Headquarters, lake success, liaison is being ensured with appropriate reference to coordination of activity in the America, by a special liaison unit and by a committee including all interests materially involved
(a) As a result of the conflict in Palestine there are approximately 360,000 Arab refugees and 7,000 Jewish refugees requiring aid in that country and adjacent States.
(b) Large number of these are infants, children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. Their condition is one of destitution and they are “vulnerable groups” in the medical and social sense.
(c) The destruction of their property and the loss of their assets will render most of them a charge upon the communities in which they have sought refuge for a minimum period of one ear (through this winter and until the end of the 1949 harvest).
(d) The Arab inhabitants of Palestine are not citizens or subjects of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Transjordan, the States which are at present providing them with a refuge and the basic necessities of life. As residents of Palestine, a former mandated territory for which the international community has a continuing responsibility until a final settlement is achieved, these Arab refugees understandably look to the United Nations for effective assistance.
(e) The temporary alleviation of their condition, which is all that my disaster relief programme can promise them now, is quite inadequate to meet an continuing need, unless the resources in supplies and personnel available be of permanent value in establishing social services in the countries concerned, or improving greatly existing services. This applies particularly to general social administrative organizations, maternal and child care services, the training of social workers, and the improvement of food economics.
(f) The refugees, on return to their homes, are entitled to adequate safeguards for their personal security, normal facilities for employment, and adequate opportunities to develop within the community without racial, religious or social discrimination.
(g) So long as large numbers of the refugees remain in distress, I believe hat responsibility for their relief should be assumed by the United Nations in conjunction with the neighbouring Arab States, the Provisional government of Israel, the specialized agencies, and also the Voluntary bodies or organizations of a humanitarian and non-political character.
2. In concluding this part of my report, I must emphasize again the desperate urgency of this problem. The choice is between saving the lives of many thousands of people now or permitting them to die. The situation of the majority of these hapless refugees is already tragic, and to prevent them from being overwhelmed by further disaster and to make possible their ultimate rehabilitation, it is my earnest hope that the international community will give all necessary support to make the measures I have outlined fully effective. I believe that for the international community to accept its share of responsibility for the refugees of Palestine is one of the minimum conditions for the success of its efforts to bring peace to that land.
United Nations Mediator for Palestine
Rhodes, 16 September 1948