This working group focuses on the sensitive issue of Middle East refugees. Family reunification, training and job creation, public health, child welfare and social and economic infrastructure are among the subjects addressed by this forum. The underlying principle of this group is to improve the living conditions for refugees in their present location. The members of the refugee working group have reached an understanding on the appropriate frameworks for discussing various aspects of the Palestinian refugee problem, in accordance with the terms of the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles and the Israeli-Jordanian Common Agenda signed in September 1993, as follows:
The above understanding, achieved in Tunis at the fourth round of talks, enabled the working group to focus on the humanitarian aspects of the refugee issue -- family reunification and improving living conditions. In this context, Israel agreed to approve 2,000 family reunification requests annually, thus according permanent resident status to an additional 6,000 persons who had entered the territories as visitors. In a further humanitarian act, Israel has permitted a number of individuals deported in the early 1970's due to prior terrorist activities, to return to the territories, together with their families.
In the round of talks which took place in Cairo (May 1994), more concrete plans were developed to ensure a real and positive impact on the lives of the refugees. A substantial portion of the World Bank's emergency assistance program will be directed toward this effort. The following activities were agreed upon:
Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry