THE DEFINITION OF A ‘PALESTINIAN REFUGEE’. AS DEFINED BY UNRWA. DIFFERS FROM THAT USED BY UNHCR FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD
The UNRWA hereditary definition explains why the Palestinians Refugees is the only refugee group to expand. Since 1948 they have grown from about 700,000 to over 5,000,000 (Note - No census has been carried out. This figure is a ‘common’ guesstimate)
ALL OTHER REFUGEE GROUPS HAVE SHRUNK UNTIL THEY HAVE VANISHED
From the 1940’s Jewish communities were exiled, fled or left Arab countries. They were quickly resettled. No contributions for help with resettlement were requested from other governments. No reparations for their losses were received by them. They created no ‘refugee problem’ and today are usually forgotten.
The Arab League decided Palestinian refugees should be used as a political weapon against Israel.
The past 70 years have seen unsuccessful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for regional peace.
WHY ARE PALESTINIAN REFUGEES DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER REFUGEES?
The unique status afforded to Palestinians is the single biggest stumbling block to achieving peace The above was co-authored by Endy Zemenides and David Harris. Endy Zemenides is executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council and David Harris is CEO of American Jewish Committee (AJC). August 30, 2018
News reports suggest the U.S. administration is considering a historic decision to redefine who is and is not a Palestinian “refugee.” I hope the reports are true. A change is long overdue and could actually help the search for peace long-term.
Tragically, there have been countless refugees in the annals of history.
In the 20th century alone, tens of millions of refugees, if not more, were compelled to find new homes — victims of world wars, border adjustments, population transfers, political demagoguery, and social pathologies.
The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne codified the population exchange of Greeks and Turks, totaling more than 1.5 million people.
Huge numbers of Hindus and Muslims moved because of the partition of the sub-continent into two independent nations — India and Pakistan.
Refugees by the millions, unable to return to their countries, were created as a result of the 12-year Third Reich.
The exodus from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam after the victory of communist and rebel forces was massive.
Refugee flows from Africa’s civil and tribal wars have been constant.
Yemenis were kicked out of Saudi Arabia by the hundreds of thousands during the first Gulf War due to Yemen’s support for Iraq.
Countless Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims fled, or were expelled, due to Serbian aggression.
And this is just the tip of the refugee iceberg.
In fact, I don’t have to look far to understand the unending refugee crises of our times — or the trauma they have created. My mother, father, and wife were all refugees. Yet, instead of wallowing in victimization or becoming consumed by hatred and revenge, they started anew, grateful to their adopted lands for making it possible.
This past May, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) counted 19.9 million refugees in its jurisdiction, with the largest populations being from Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over five decades, UNHCR estimates that it has assisted 50 million refugees “to help restart their lives.”
And yet, of all the world’s refugees, one group — the Palestinians — are treated entirely differently.
Indeed, the 1951 Refugee Convention explicitly does not apply to Palestinians, who fall within the purview of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
There is no equivalent UN body for anyone else in the world.
The definition of a refugee under the UNRWA mandate is also unique. It covers all descendants, without limit, of those deemed refugees in 1948. This helps explain why its caseload has increased from 750,000 to more than 5 million (and still growing).
Unlike UNHCR, UNRWA does not seek to resettle Palestinian refugees, but rather provides social services while, in effect, keeping them in perpetual limbo.
And despite the crocodile tears shed by Arab countries about the plight of their Palestinian brethren, they have been among the most miserly donors to UNRWA. They assert that it is not their responsibility to care for refugees created by the decisions of others. The top five donors to UNRWA until now have been the U.S. and European governments.
By the way, I should hasten to clarify that only those Palestinians seen as victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict are given this special treatment.
During the first Gulf War in 1991, when Kuwait sent packing 400,000 Palestinians for their alleged backing of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, there wasn’t much reaction from the international community. And more recently, while thousands of Palestinians have been dislocated by the Syrian civil war, again there’s silence. Arab violations of Arabs’ human rights are seemingly viewed differently, if they’re noticed at all.
And in Lebanon, with its large Palestinian population under UNRWA auspices, the government has long imposed strict restrictions on Palestinians’ right to work in numerous fields. Where is the outcry?
So, we are confronted by something unprecedented.
Palestinians are not the world’s first refugee population, but their leadership may be the first to resist a workable, long-term solution.
Think about it. In 1947, the UN offered a two-state plan to address competing national claims. The Jews accepted it; the Arabs rejected it. Or in UN-speak, the “proposed Arab State failed to materialize.” Had it been otherwise, two states could have emerged, and with any luck, learned to coexist. Apropos, to this day, that two-state concept remains the most feasible outcome.
Instead, the Arab side went to war. Has there been any war without refugees? Yet, in a case of reverse causality, Israel is blamed for the refugees resulting from hostilities triggered by five Arab countries.
Meanwhile, the Arab-Israeli conflict produced even more Jewish refugees from the Arab world (and Iran). They, however, resettled elsewhere with little fanfare and no attention whatsoever from the UN.
Then, by design, the Palestinian refugees, and their descendants ad infinitum, were kept in UNRWA camps to serve as permanent reminders of the impermanence of their situation. Taught to focus their hatred on Israel, and to believe they will one day “return,” they’ve been denied chances for new lives. And they’ve been used to create the single biggest stumbling block to achieving peace — the Palestinian fantasy of ending Jewish sovereignty in Israel.
Even now, 13 years after Israel totally withdrew from Gaza, astonishingly, over 500,000 Palestinians continue to live in UNRWA camps there. Why? Gaza is under Palestinian rule, not Israeli.
While the Palestinians are among the world’s largest per capita aid recipients, much of that assistance has been siphoned off to line the pockets of Palestinian officials — who then turn around and seek more funds for their allegedly neglected people.
It’s the same absurd logic that Hamas deploys when it decries energy shortages, while trying to shell the Israeli power plants that provide electricity to Gaza.
The whole process is abetted by an elaborate, well-funded UN apparatus, encompassing more than just UNRWA, created by a majority of member states to support the Palestinians. By contrast, among others, Kurds, who have a compelling case for statehood, and Cypriots, who have lived on a divided island due to Turkish occupation, have no comparable UN bodies to advance their causes.
This is not to say that Palestinians have had easy lives. They haven’t. It is to say that their leaders, with the complicity of too many, have pulled off one of the most successful spin jobs in history. Rather than resettle the refugees, they have shamelessly exploited them and their descendants.
Therein lies the irreducible tragedy — and the heart — of a decades-long conflict.
JEWISH UNRWA - JEWISH AID FOR JEWISH REFUGEES FROM ARAB COUNTRIES MIDA
The US decision to withdraw its support for UNRWA raises the possibility that other countries will follow suit, and this organization will come to its end. These circumstances call for a retrospective look at the period of UNRWA’s establishment. As so happens, alongside UNRWA, which was intended to help rehabilitate the Palestinian refugees after the war, the United States transferred funds for a parallel project to aid Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
This chapter of Israel’s history is forgotten for a simple reason – it succeeded. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries were assimilated into Israel. In contrast, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees were rejected by the countries that were supposed to absorb them, in a cynical move designed to perpetuate the Arab-Israeli conflict in conditions where other conflicts have long since been resolved.
…………………… The UNRWA monster has become a petri dish in which anomalies have multiplied as far as the treatment of refugees goes: Palestinian refugee status is inherited, UNRWA itself is not working to rehabilitate the refugees but only involved in humanitarian aid, and a large majority of its workers are Palestinians themselves. UNRWA has become a decisive factor in perpetuating the Arab-Israeli conflict, rather than in solving it.
In April 2008, a month before Israel’s 60th Independence Day, there were first signs of an American awakening: in the face of the “unquestionable rights” of the Palestinians, Congress decided to grant identical rights to the Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries. Congress instructed the president to determine that the rehabilitation of the refugees in their places is the way to solve the problem of the conflict in the Middle East, and the “refugees” refers to people who fled all Middle Eastern countries during the 1948 war.
The Trump administration’s decision to cease funding for UNRWA looks like closing a circle. Time will tell whether the move will succeed, but if this is indeed the case, it can be assumed that this is a significant step towards quelling the end of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
UNITED NATIONS - REFUGEES The world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home by conflict and persecution at the end of 2016. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also 10 million stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. United Nations
AN AGENCY TO HELP REFUGEES
People fleeing persecution and conflict have been granted asylum in foreign lands for thousands of years. The UN agency that helps refugees is UNHCR (also known as the UN Refugee Agency), which emerged in the wake of World War II to help Europeans displaced by that conflict.
UNHCR was established on December 14, 1950 by the UN General Assembly with a three-year mandate to complete its work and then disband. The following year, on July 28, the legal foundation of helping refugees and the basic statute guiding UNHCR's work, the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, was adopted. So instead of ending its work after three years, UNHCR has been working ever since to help refugees.
In the 1960s, the decolonization of Africa produced the first of that continent's numerous refugee crises needing UNHCR intervention. Over the following two decades, UNHCR had to help with displacement crises in Asia and Latin America. By the end of the century there were fresh refugee problems in Africa and, turning full circle, new waves of refugees in Europe from the series of wars in the Balkans.
In a world here nearly 20 people are forcibly displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution, the work of UNHCR is more important than ever before.
MILLIONS OF SYRIANS DISPLACED
The conflict in Syria, now in its seventh year, was the world’s biggest producer of refugees (5.5 million). Humanitarian needs in Syria have increased significantly since the beginning of the crisis, with 13.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 6 million children. Over 400,000 people have been killed and more than 1 million injured since 2010.
Many Syrians have been forced to leave their homes, often multiple times, making Syria the largest displacement crisis in the world with 6.3 million people internally displaced and almost 4 million people registered as refugees in neighboring countries. An estimated 4.53 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in hard-to-reach areas and besieged locations.
Turkey hosts over 2.9 million registered Syrians. The majority of them live in urban areas, with around 260,000 accommodated in the 21 government-run refugee camps. There are more than a million registered Syrians in Lebanon and 660,000 in Jordan. Iraq has also seen a growing number of Syrians arriving, hosting more than 241,000, while in Egypt UNHCR provides protection and assistance to more than 122,000.
Palestine refugees are particularly vulnerable with an estimated 460,000 people receiving regular assistance around Syria. School attendance has dropped by more than 50 per cent and roughly one-quarter of schools have been damaged, destroyed or are used as collective shelters. More than half of Syria's hospitals have been destroyed or badly damaged. Water supply has decreased to less than 50 per cent of its pre-crisis levels. An estimated 9.8 million people are considered food insecure and many more are living in poverty.
In 2016, the disastrous break-off of peace efforts in July in South Sudan contributed to an outflow of 737,400 people by the end of the year. That number has continued to rise during the first half of 2017.
UNHCR IN THE FIELD
The UN Refugee Agency has its Headquarters in Geneva, but about 89 per cent of staff are in the field. Today, a staff of more than 9,700 people in 126 countries provides protection and assistance to nearly 59 million refugees, returnees, internally displaced and stateless people. The largest portion of UNHCR staff are based in countries in Asia and Africa, the continents that both host and generate the most refugees and internally displaced people. Many are in isolated locations where staff work in difficult - and often dangerous - conditions. Among the biggest UNHCR operations are Afghanistan, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), was mandated by the UN General Assembly in 1949 to provide services to registered Palestine refugees in the Middle East. When the Agency began operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. UNRWA is a direct service provider, delivering primary and secondary education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency aid to Palestine refugees, now numbering 5.4 million, in the Agency’s five mandated areas of operation: the Gaza Strip, West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
The World Bank has described UNRWA’s education system for 530,000 boys and girls as a “global public good”. UNRWA is an efficient and well-run Agency of the United Nations. It has carried out major reforms and savings, amounting to some $300 M since 2015.
Definitions of refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention and of Palestine refugees per the UN General Assembly are complementary.
For UNRWA’s mandate, ‘Palestine refugee’ relates to people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between 1 June 1946 and 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict. Palestine refugees and their descendants can register with UNRWA to receive services in UNRWA’s mandated areas of operation.
UNRWA has not changed and cannot change its mandate. That is the responsibility of UN Member States. These Member States, through the UN General Assembly, have tasked UNRWA to provide assistance and protection to Palestine refugees until a just and lasting political solution is found that addresses their plight.
Political solutions are difficult, which is why there remain, globally, a number of protracted refugee situations whereby successive generations continue to be recognized as refugees. The General Assembly continues to determine the necessity of UNRWA’s work in the absence of a just resolution of the question of Palestine refugees. In the absence of UNRWA, Palestine refugees would still exist.
DESCENDANTS OF REFUGEES RETAIN REFUGEE STATUS
Under international law and the principle of family unity, the children of refugees and their descendants are also considered refugees until a durable solution is found. Both UNRWA and UNHCR recognize descendants as refugees on this basis, a practice that has been widely accepted by the international community, including both donors and refugee hosting countries.
Palestine refugees are not distinct from other protracted refugee situations such as those from Afghanistan or Somalia, where there are multiple generations of refugees, considered by UNHCR as refugees and supported as such. Protracted refugee situations are the result of the failure to find political solutions to their underlying political crises.
SUPPORT FOR REFUGEE CAMPS
UN peacekeepers are often there to protect the camps in which refugees must live. When they are left without access to such basic necessities as food, water, sanitation and health care, the UN family provides it. Much of this support is provided through the United Nations humanitarian action machinery. The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), through its “cluster approach”, brings together all major humanitarian agencies, both within and outside the UN system, for coordinated action.
UNHCR is the lead agency with respect to the protection of refugees and the internally displaced. Along with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), it is the lead agency for camp coordination and management. And it shares the lead with respect to emergency shelter with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has twice been the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize — in 1954 and 1981.
CLIMATE CHANGE, NATURAL DISASTERS AND DISPLACEMENT
In addition to persecution and conflict, in the 21st century, natural disaster (sometimes due to climate change) can also force people to seek refuge in other countries. Such disasters – floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, mudslides – are increasing in frequency and intensity. While most of the displacement caused by these events is internal, they can also cause people to cross borders. None of the existing international and regional refugee law instruments, however, specifically addresses the plight of such people.
Displacement caused by the slow-onset effects of climate change is largely internal as well. But through its acceleration of drought, desertification, the salinization of ground water and soil, and rising sea levels, climate change, too, can contribute to the displacement of people across international frontiers.
Other human-made calamities, such as severe socio-economic deprivation, can also cause people to flee across borders. While some may be escaping persecution, most leave because they lack any meaningful option to remain. The lack of food, water, education, health care and a livelihood would not ordinarily and by themselves sustain a refugee claim under the 1951 Convention. Nevertheless, some of these people may need some form of protection.
All of these circumstances - conflict, natural disasters, and climate changepose enormous challenges for the international humanitarian community.
As proclaimed by the General Assembly, World Refugee Day is observed annually on 20 June.
The UN General Assembly hosted a high-level meeting on 19 September 2016 to address large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach.
Just as there are no Jewish Refugee who left left/fled/exiled from Arab countries in the 1940’s so there will be no Palestinian refugees. If there are no Palestinian refugees there is no need for UNRWA. There would be no discrimination by Arab countries against ex-Palestinian refugees.
Since then western countries have donated an incredible amount of money in support of Palestinian refugees. Many, on both sides, have been killed/injured.
UNRWA was founded in 1949 through U.N. General Assembly Resolution 302 at the conclusion of the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1948, aiming for “the alleviation of the conditions of starvation and distress among the Palestine refugees” from that conflict. The agency defines Palestinian refugees as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”
In 1965, UNRWA changed the eligibility requirements to be a Palestinian refugee to include third-generation descendants, and in 1982, it extended it again, to include all descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, regardless of whether they had been granted citizenship elsewhere. This classification process is inconsistent with how all other refugees in the world are classified, including the definition used by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the laws concerning refugees in the United States.
Under Article I(c)(3) of the 1951 U.N. Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, a person is no longer a refugee if, for example, he or she has “acquired a new nationality, and enjoys the protection of the country of his new nationality.” UNRWA’s definition of a Palestinian refugee, which is not anchored in treaty, includes no such provision.
The refugee definition answers the question "who is a refugee" and is the basis for determining refugee status. The definition applies to individuals as well as groups of persons.
Being a refugee entitles the person to a number of (refugee) rights, including the right not to be sent back to the country of origin (principle of non-refoulement). See also the Entry on access to territory and non-refoulement.
The refugee definition is declaratory, i.e. a person is a refugee as soon as s/he fulfils the criteria contained in the definition. This would necessarily occur prior to a formal determination of her/his refugee status. Until such determination is made it must be assumed that those who have crossed an international border to escape a risk of serious harm in their country of origin are refugees and should be treated as such.
2) RELEVANCE FOR EMERGENCY OPERATIONS
The refugee definition applies both in emergency and non-emergency situations and can under no circumstances be changed, restricted or suspended.
Emergency situations, however, typically do not allow for time and resource intensive individual status determination. Group determination on the basis of a prima facie recognition of refugee status may be more suitable in emergency situations. See also the Entry on refugee status determination.
When refugee status is not immediately determined, either on an individual or group basis, it is important to recall the declaratory character of the refugee definition and to operate on the assumption that all those fleeing a situation of serious harm in their country of origin are refugees, even if this is not always formally stated.
As such, they all enjoy protection from refoulement as well as protection derived from human rights law and - if applicable - international humanitarian law.
3) DESCRIPTION AND GUIDANCE
The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees provides the universal definition of a refugee. This definition is extended by definitions contained in regional instruments and in national law, as applicable. Where UNHCR conducts RSD under its mandate, the authority to do so derives from its mandate under UNHCR's 1950 Statute. However, UNHCR applies the eligibility criteria as set out in the 1951 Convention, which constitutes the later, more specific and authoritative expression of the refugee definition, supplemented by definitions in regional instruments (see below).
The 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol
The primary and universal definition of a refugee that applies to states is contained in Article 1(A)(2) of the 1951 Convention, as amended by its 1967 Protocol, defining a refugee as someone who:
"owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
In the case of a person who has more than one nationality, the term "the country of his nationality" shall mean each of the countries of which he is a national, and a person shall not be deemed to be lacking the protection of the country of his nationality if, without any valid reason based on well-founded fear, he has not availed himself of the protection of one of the countries of which he is a national."
The inclusion criteria in Article 1A are complemented by clauses contained in Articles 1D to 1F of the 1951 Convention. Together, they form the refugee definition in the 1951 Convention, but consideration of these aspects of the definition will generally not be a priority in emergency situations. For completeness they are listed below:
Article 1 D on its face excludes those presently receiving protection or assistance from another organ of the United Nations (essentially Palestinian refugees), but also explicitly includes these same people when the assistance or protection ceases.
Article 1 E excludes those presently enjoying rights normally accorded to nationals in a country where they have taken residence.
Article 1 F excludes persons who would otherwise qualify for refugee status on account of having committed, or participated in the commission of, certain serious crimes or heinous acts. See also the Entry on exclusion clauses (article 1F).
Finally, Article 1 C describes the circumstances in which a refugee ceases to be a refugee. Cessation considerations are normally not relevant to emergency situations. However, in the event that an emergency causes refugees to return to their country of origin prematurely, they will remain of concern to UNHCR and will retain their status as refugees. Any return undertaken where there is effectively no other alternative, or where the alternative offers no more protection than does the country of origin, cannot be considered voluntary repatriation and does not change or cease the refugee character of the individuals concerned.
The above-mentioned core definition in Article 1 of the 1951 Convention is supplemented by regional instruments in Africa and Latin America:
In Africa, Article I (2) of the 1969 OAU Convention governing specific aspects of refugee problems in Africa extends the refugee definition to:
"every person who, owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality, is compelled to leave his place of habitual residence in order to seek refuge in another place outside his country of origin or nationality";
In Latin America, Conclusion III of the 1984 Cartagena Declaration extends the refugee definition to:
"persons who have fled their country because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalised violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order".
Based on UNHCR's Statute and successive UN General Assembly and ECOSOC resolutions UNHCR's competence to provide international protection to refugees encompasses individuals who meet the criteria for refugee status contained in Article 1 of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol and is extended to individuals who are outside their country of origin and who are unable or unwilling to return there owing to serious threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from generalized violence or events seriously disturbing public order. See also the Entry on UNHCR's mandate for refugees, stateless persons and IDPs.
In any operational context, the national legal framework is also important because it is usually the primary source of law for national authorities and as such generally serves as their first point of reference. The definitions contained in international and regional instruments will generally have been incorporated into the national legal frameworks of the States parties to them. It is therefore critical to be aware of and understand the refugee definition provided under the relevant national legal framework.
Handbook and Guidelines on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (2011) UN Doc HCR/1P/4/ENG/Rev. 3
CONTACT As first port of call, the UNHCR Dep. Representative (Protection), UNHCR Asst. Rep. (Protection), and/or Snr Protection Officer in the country; or The UNHCR Regional Asst./Dep Rep (Protection) and/or Snr. Regional Protection Officer at the regional office (if applicable); or The Snr. Regional Legal Advisor in the respective UNHCR regional bureau, covering the respective country region, who in turn will liaise as required with the parent unit at UNHCR DIP.
WHY ARE PALESTINE REFUGEES DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER REFUGEES?