Palestinian refugees are a slippery population — but when 285,535 of them go missing from a small country such as Lebanon, it should raise eyebrows.
UNRWA in Lebanon reports on its website that 449,957 refugees live under its protection in 12 camps, but a survey by Lebanon’s Central Administration of Statistics, together with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, could only find 174,535. The Lebanese government said the others “left.” Okay, maybe they did — Lebanon constrained them viciously, so it would make some sense. What does NOT make sense, then, is the UN giving UNRWA a budget based on nearly half a million people when, in fact, there are far fewer than a quarter of a million. Who is paying and who is getting the money?
We are and they are.
The UNRWA website shows a budget of $2.41 billion combined for FY 2016 and 2017. The U.S. provides more than $300 million to UNRWA annually, about one-quarter of the total. In August 2017, UNRWA claimed a deficit of $126 million. A former State Department official said the budget shortfalls are chronic but that “the funds seemed eventually arrive” after pressing others for more money — some of that additional money is from the U.S.
American funding for UNRWA is problematic itself because the organization is inextricably intertwined with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon; see here, here and here. And specifically for Lebanon, the connection goes as far back as 2007. But stay with the “floating” population problem for a moment.