If registered, supported and treated by the UN the way Palestinian refugees were, the number of German refugees from East Prussia would have grown by now from 1.8 million to a whopping 11 million, taking into account their descendants. The actual number of refugees from East Prussia is now zero. I would not hazard a guess as to the number of descendants from all 12 million German refugees, or about the other 28 million of non-German refugees. None of them, or their descendants, are registered as a refugee, or have any claim as such.
There are hundreds of thousands of Japanese refugees, millions of Chinese, Arab (non-Palestinian) and African refugees, and refugees from other parts of the globe. Few people, other than some scholars on international affairs, know about them. The media and politicians do not seem to care about them. The question arises: why does the world concentrate its attention on Palestinian refugees? What is it that makes Europe and the US care so much about them and donate billions of dollars every year to support their refugee status? We hear arguments that their living conditions are below the poverty line, therefore they have to be supported out of compassion. How about the hundreds of millions of other people, living in misery side by side with them? Do they fare better? Do we, the so-called ‘civilized world’, care about them?
A recent study by World Bank (2006) discovered that 25 percent of the population in the Middle East and North Africa region fell below the poverty line, set at $2 USD per day. In comparison, according to the Index MUNDI, 16 percent of the Palestinian population are considered the poorest of the poor, with an expenditure of about $50 USD per person, per month. So the percentage of the poorest refugee population is lower than the rest. It does not mean, in my opinion, that refugees from any nation, Arab or not, do not deserve compassion. But if we concentrate on the poverty issue, why take Arab refugees out of the picture, ignoring the population that lives around them?
Apparently the well being of Palestinian refugees, or registrants, is so important for the normal functioning of the international community, that the UN initiated a project on the subject: ‘Population and Demographic Development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip Until 1990’. There were other initiatives, which I will not discuss here. To evaluate the validity of these initiatives, I will compare the living conditions of Palestinian refugees with the other population of the countries where they live. Here are some helpful statistics. The number of UNRWA registered Palestinian refugees by country or territory in January 2010 was as in Table 2: