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A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z   This menu features recently updated backgrounders on people, places and subjects. To view all backgrounders, click More...
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last updated Jan. 11, 2010 11:07 AM (EST+7)
Refugees and internally displaced persons
Read more: 
displacement, refugees, internally displaced, international law, internal displacement, Nakba, Nekba, 1948, 1948 war, 1967, 1967 war, diaspora, refugee camp, UNRWA, United Nations Relief and Works Agency
Palestinians presently constitute the largest and most protracted refugee crisis in the world. Paradoxically, they are also the most heavily-aided nation per capita. However, they remain without a permanent resolution and without a state.

EnlargeA Palestinian woman next to a tent on the spot where Israeli authorities demolished a house in Silwan, March 5, 2009.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Multimedia
BTselem: Palestinians displaced in Gaza war still in tents
May 24, 2009 8:19 AM (EST+7)
BTselem: Palestinians displaced in Gaza war still in tents
May 24, 2009 8:19 AM (EST+7)
Aljazeera: Looting the Holy Land documentary
Oct. 12, 2010 12:18 PM (EST+7)
Palestinians and Syrians cross into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights
May 16, 2011 10:34 AM (EST+7)
Background
Sheikh Jarrah
Wall
House demolitions and forced evictions
Documents
The Case of Sheikh Jarrah, UN OCHA, October 2010
Sharp Increase in Demolitions and Displacement in the West Bank - July 2010
ICRC: No respite from hardship for Palestinians in West Bank
Publications
Poll No. 34, November 1999 - Palestinian - Israeli Attitudes Towards Palestinian Refugees
Poll No. 35, December 1999 - On Palestinian & Israeli Attitudes Towards the future of the Peace Process
Poll No. 36 Part I, March 2000 - On Palestinian Attitudes Towards Final Status Issues and Women and Legislation in Palestine
Resources
2 more Palestinian families get eviction warrant in East Jerusalem, Mohammed Mari, April 7, 2010, arabnews.com
A Second Nakba and Forced Eviction in Al Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood, September 15, 2009, POICA website
Jerusalem, Israeli settlement activities and related policies, 2009, PASSIA website (pdf)

Whether termed as the Nakba ("the catastrophe") or an exodus, the Palestinian refugee crisis started in 1948 when 700,000 or so Palestinians fled their homes or were ousted by Israeli forces from their communities in present day Israel.

The second wave of refugees emanated from the 1967 war when around 280,000 to 325,000 Palestinians were displaced from their lands that had been under Jordanian control until the beginning of the war. By the end of the six days, Israel had occupied the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and the Sinai, thereby redrawing borders and once again expelling Palestinian living in these regions. Most of these Palestinians fled to the West Bank and Gaza, which became the occupied Palestinian territories.

A REALISTIC NUMBER

Significant differences exist between Israeli and Palestinian estimates of the actual number of refugees and the numbers provides by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), tasked with providing services to Palestinian refugees.

 The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics quotes the total number of refugees at seven million with an additional 450,000 classified as internally displaced persons (IDP). Due to the lack of a comprehensive registration system it is difficult to obtain exact numbers. According to UNRWA's records, there are 4.5 million registered refugees since 1948. However, this number does not include an estimated 1.5 million refugees displaced in 1948 who did not register and an additional wave of 950,000 refugees and IDPs as a result of the 1967 war.

RIGHTS UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW

The rights of Palestinian refugees and IDPs are explicitly stated under international human rights and humanitarian law, particularly the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and UN Security Council Resolution 237.

DEFINITIONS

Generally, the term Palestinian refugee refers to those Palestinians who were displaced from their places of origin in British Mandate Palestine (present day Israel and the 1967 occupied Palestinian territory) and are unable to exercise their basic human right to return to their homes and properties.

Internally displaced persons on the other hand are persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or leave their homes as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, and violations of human rights, and who have not crossed an internationally-recognized state border.

A PROTRACTED CRISIS

One of the glaring distinctions in relation to the conventional international approach to refugees is that Palestinian refugees are not protected by the international refugee regime and United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. Instead, UNRWA was formed by the UN General Assembly in 1949 as a specialized organization, solely responsible for Palestinian refugees of the Near East.

Although it is difficult to predict the outcome of Palestinian refugees had they been protected under UNHCR, one perspective is that the principles of the international refugee regime would have prevented a protracted refugee situation because of stronger mandates and greater pressure on neighboring Arab countries to integrate refugees.

News on Refugees and internally displaced persons
Abbas: We don't want to flood Israel with Palestinian refugeesFeb. 18, 2014 1:46 AM (EST+7)
Thousands of Palestinians rally to mark 65 years since displacementMay 15, 2013 8:47 PM (EST+7)
Over a dozen injured in Ramallah refugee camp clashesJan. 20, 2013 10:28 PM (EST+7)


Sources
UNRWA official website
What caused the Palestinian refugee crisis? by Benny Morris, the Guardian, 14 Jan 2004
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics website
The state of the worlds refugees - UNHCR



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