Karen Koning AbuZayd, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, writes in the foreword to their 2008 Emergency Appeal:
The recent lifting of the embargo on the Palestinian Authority and resumption of salary payments to more than 160,000 public sector employees have had a positive impact on the lives of many Palestinians. We have responded by removing tens of thousands of families from our assistance rolls.
I didn't know that they ever removed families from their assistance rolls. On what basis? And does that mean the removed families are no longer "refugees"? and if they're removing from their assitance rolls "tens of thousands of families" (and those families average four or five persons each), how is it that every year the numbers go up, and never down?
Under UNRWA's operational definition, Palestine refugees are persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. UNRWA's services are available to all those living in its area of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance. UNRWA's definition of a refugee also covers the descendants of persons who became refugees in 1948. The number of registered Palestine refugees has subsequently grown from 914,000 in 1950 to more than 4.4 million in 2005, and continues to rise due to natural population growth.For the sake of some perspective, "natural growth rate" in the U.S. is 0.6% annually (12 months). Canada? 0.3%. If you include (known, i.e. legal) immigration, both countries enjoy an overall growth rate of 0.9 %.
From March 2005 to December 2006 (21 months), the number of "registered refugees" in the West Bank increased more than 5%, from 687,542 to 722,302. The number of "registered refugees" in Gaza increased almost 6%, from 961,645 to 1,016,964.
At these rates, could the total number of registered Palestinian refugees exceed five million (5,000,000) by this time next year? Think of it this way: If you were to give each of them $1,480.00, a family of 31 would rake in over $45,000, but the $7.4 billion from Paris would be All Gone.
Does anyone ever look at these numbers? Is anyone held accountable for their accuracy? Who in the media asks any questions of Karen Koning Abuzayd? (see New York Sun)
I am only one curious American, sitting at a computer in my pajamas; I can't audit the UNRWA. And guess what, it's not my job! But it should be someone's.
In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the [UN] General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2008.
Going off on a slight tangent, we note that Mrs. Abu Zayd really scored on her trip to Ireland last week:
[Ireland's Minister of State for Overseas Development Michael Kitt T.D.] noted that Ireland's assistance to the Palestinian people has increased by 70% in the past two years, to €7.5 million in 2007. "At the International Donors Conference in Paris on Monday last, I pledged €40 million in Irish assistance for reconstruction and development in Palestine, in the context of agreement.
The Government this year increased our core funding for UNRWA by 27%, to €3.8 million annually, for the next three years.
Today, I am pleased to announce further immediate funding of €500,000 for UNRWA in Gaza, bringing Ireland's total funding for the Agency in 2007 to €4.3 million."
So of the $7.4 billion pledged in Paris, $555 million is supposed to come from the U.S. and only about $80 million from Ireland, though they enjoy a higher GDP per capita (PPP) than we do. It must be that their prime minister doesn't suffer from the same legacy lunacy that motivates the Bush administration.