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Palestinian Refugees and Displacement of Palestinians

Volume 641: debated on Tuesday 15 May 2018

8. What recent assessment his Department has made of the extent to which the human rights of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan are protected. (905288)

16. What assessment he has made of the effect of the long-term displacement of Palestinians on stability in the middle east. [R] (905296)

We are committed to protecting the human rights of Palestinian refugees. In 2017 and 2018, we provided £50 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency to support Palestinian refugees across the middle east. Ultimately, to promote stability across the region, there must be a fair, agreed and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee question.

This year, the United States more than halved its aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, piling further pressure on people trapped in an already hellish situation. In the light of that, can the Minister tell us what representations he has made to his American counterparts about this decision and whether he intends to bring forward a new funding settlement?

I have indeed made representations to US counterparts in relation to this. We have brought forward our own next tranche of support to UNRWA, and we continue to believe that support for UNRWA is vital, particularly in the present circumstances. We will be further reviewing what we can do—not just ourselves, but with other donors as well.

Today, Nakba Day, is the 70th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from what is now Israel. Israel chooses to mark it by escalating the murder and maiming of civilians in Gaza, including hundreds of children. Can we hear from the Minister and the Foreign Secretary, as we have from the shadow Foreign Secretary, an unqualified condemnation of the actions of the Israeli Government and security forces, and support for international law, including the right of return? Is the Minister prepared to take action, starting with the suspension of arms sales to Israel?

That were three questions in one there. I will deal with the centrality of the issue in Gaza later. However, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that our statements make it clear that we deeply regret the extent of the use of live fire yesterday. We understand the reason why Israel would seek to protect its border and its border fence—it knows what would happen if there were a significant breach of it—but we are also concerned about the events that will have led to people being pushed towards the fence. However, it is a complex situation and we will cover it in more detail shortly.

Ah, yes. I think the House must hear the cerebral voice of the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I call Mr Tom Tugendhat.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am grateful. As we are talking about the status of refugees in the middle east, does the Minister agree that his excellent work in the region has promoted peace but, more than that, does he also agree that many others could contribute to it? I am particularly thinking of the Iranian Government, who rather than spending their money on missiles and terrorists in Syria and elsewhere, could instead spend some of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps money on the fate of refugees in Lebanon, Syria and indeed the areas of Gaza and the west bank. Those Palestinians are so often linked through political means to the Iranian regime, yet somehow the money seems to go only on weapons, with none of it going on education, schools or hospitals.

There are elements of my hon. Friend’s question that I cannot comment on, but I can say that in the longer term the engagement of Iran with the region, in a supportive rather than a disruptive manner, towards the causes that he mentioned, is, of course, what we look for. But we are some way away from that yet and we will continue to press the case with Iran in relation to its behaviour.