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Sunday, May 22, 2011


Palestine Monitor factsheet - Updated: 18 December 2008


“The UN General Assembly reaffirms the right of all persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities to return to their homes or former places of residence in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967”
United Nations Resolution 61/113 (Dec. 14th, 2006)
"There are a total of 4,618,141 registered Palestinian refugees in the Middle East and an estimated 5.5 million Palestinian Refugees worldwide, making them the largest refugee population anywhere in the world."
UNRWA, 2008

Palestinian Refugees: The Facts

- Registered Palestinian Refugees in the Middle East total 4,618,141.
- Estimated Palestinian Refugees worldwide 5.5 million.
- The war in 1948 resulted in over 750,000 Palestinian refugees.
- The 1967 “Six-Day War”a further 240,000 refugees were created.
- Since 1967, another 400,000 Palestinians have been displaced.

Palestinian Refugees

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) passed Resolu-tion 181, endorsing a partition plan to divide the land of historic Palestine between the Jews and Arabs. War ensued and resulted in the state of Israel being created on 78% of the total area of historic Palestine. The plan was rejected by the wider Arab world.
During the ensuing war of 1948, over 750,000 Palestinians (75% of the Arab population in Palestine) were displaced and dispossessed of their homes and land, creating what has become the largest refugee population in the world. Some 531 villages and towns were destroyed, amounting to estimated total losses of 209 billion USD.
The majority remained in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but a large number fled to neighboring countries; Jordan, Lebanon and others throughout the world.
40,000 Palestinians were internally displaced within the new Israeli state. Many lost their homes and land and few were allowed to return despite the fact that they would later became Israeli citizens. During the 1967 “Six-Day War”, Israel forcefully annexed the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and 240,000 Palestinians were uprooted. In addition, approximately 95,000-193,500 refugees from 1948 who had been living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip became refugees for the second time.
Since 1967, another 400,000 Palestinians have been displaced from the occupied Palestinian territories due to Israeli policies. These policies include home demolitions, settlements and wall construction as well as revocation of residency rights and deportation of Palestinians.
Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, was established by United Nations Gen-eral Assembly resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949 to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. The Agency began operations on 1 May 1950. In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2011.
UNRWA defines Palestine refugees as being “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the conflict.” UNRWA’s definition of a refugee also covers the descendants of persons who became refugees in 1948.
At the end of June 2008, there were a total of 4,618,141 refugees registered with UNRWA; 1,930,703 in Jordan, 416,608 in Lebanon, 456,983 in Syria, 754,263 in the West Bank, and 1,059,584 in the Gaza Strip.
One-third of the registered Palestine refugees, about 1,3 million, live in 58 recognized UNRWA refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The other two-thirds of registered refugees live in and around the cities and towns of the host countries, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, often in a close vicinity to the official camps.
The socio-economic conditions in the refugee camps are generally poor with high population densities, cramped living conditions and inadequate basic infrastructure such as roads and sewers (9). The rights of the refugees vary from one host country to another; whereas in Jordan all Palestinian refugees have full Jordanian citizenship (with the exception of about 120,000 refugees originally from the Gaza Strip – who are eligible for temporary Jor-danian passports but who do not have the right to vote or to work with the government), the refugees in Lebanon have no social and civil rights, and have very limited access to the government’s public health or educational facilities. According to UNRWA’s estimates, the number of registered refugees who have re-turned to the occupied territories since 1967 is about 30,563.

Refugees and International Law

The UN GA has reaffirmed the right to return in response to the Israeli occupation since 1949 and on numerous occasions since, most recently in January 2008 (13). In addition to this, four bodies of international law dictate the right of return for Palestinians; humanitarian law, human rights law, the law of nationality as applied to state succession, and refugee law.
UN GA Resolution 194 (III) states that refugees and their descendants have a right to compensation and repatriation to their original homes and land due to ‘loss of or damage to property (.)’ The Resolution defined three distinct rights: return to their homes, restitution of their property and/or compensation, and has been reaffirmed every year since 1948.
The Fourth Geneva Convention (Article 49) prohibits “individual or mass forcible transfers…regardless of their motives” and calls for evacuated persons to be “transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area of question have ceased.”.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 13) reaffirms that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”.

Refugees and Annapolis

Throughout negotiations refugees have been a ma-jor sticking point. Following the failure of the Oslo Accords, the international media put the blame on the doorstep of PA head Yasser Arafat and his refusal to give up the refugee right of re-turn.
The controversy concerning refugees has not faded with time. On March 30th, 2008, nearly four months into the Annapolis negotiations, Ehud Olmert stated in an in-terview with the Jerusalem Post that:
“I will never accept a solution that is based on their (Palestinian refugees) right to return to Israel, any number...I will not agree to accept any kind of Israeli responsibility for the refugees. Full Stop. It is a moral issue of the highest level. I do not think we should accept any kind of responsibility for the creation of this problem”.
Neither side is moving from these positions, at least publically. Meanwhile nearly 5.5 million refu-gees have been asked to remain patient and let their rights become bargaining chips in the negotiating process.

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