Don't Ignore The Palestinian Refugees
By The Palestinian Return Centre
08 June, 2010
While there is much focus on the Israeli Palestinian conflict on a
political level there is very little if any mention of the refugees
who comprise three quarters of the global Palestinian conflict. The
7.1 Million Palestinian refugees face many different and difficult
challenges which require the attention of the international community.
This bulletin provides an update on the condition of Palestinian
refugees around the world over the past month. It covers stories from
the Occupied Territories, UNRWA, host countries and Palestinians in
1. PALESTINIANS IN THE OCCUPIED TERRITORY
In the occupied Palestinian territory the human rights of all
Palestinians, refugee and non-refugee alike, are foregone under the
yoke of a 40-year military occupation that shows no signs of abating.
The irony is that since the advent of the Middle East Peace Process in
1991, this occupation has transformed into a complex web of movement
and land and housing restrictions that have led esteemed international
observers, including the Reverend Desmond Tutu, to compare the
occupied territory to pre-democratic South Africa.
1.1 New Military orders
Palestinians can be evicted from the West Bank with much greater ease
as Israel adopts two new military orders. There is now a Potential for
Tens of Thousands of Palestinians to be displaced from the West Bank.
Early implementation of this order sees Israeli authorities forcibly
transfer Palestinians residing in the West Bank to the Gaza Strip in
April amid widespread criticism following the entry into force of two
new military orders. These orders expand the ability of the IDF to
forcibly transfer or deport Palestinians from their homes in the West
Bank. Both Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations have
expressed concerns that the military orders potentially place
thousands of Palestinians at risk of arrest, prosecution, and
deportation on the grounds of unclear criteria and without adequate
1.2 Gaza’s De-development
The effects of the closures on Gaza, where 1.1 million refugees
reside, have reached alarming levels. The private sector has been
decimated, infrastructure is near collapse and nearly 80% of the
population is dependent on direct aid for the basic necessities of
As of June 2009, a total of 46% of agricultural land in the Gaza
Strip was assessed to be inaccessible or out of production owing to
destruction of lands during 'Cast Lead' and inaccessible areas lying
within the “security buffer zone”. Only a limited percentage of
this land has been rehabilitated due to the blockade that restricts
the import of materials and equipment for rehabilitation and access to
1.3 Gaza Poverty
The deterioration of living conditions in the Gaza Strip, mainly as a
result of the Israeli blockade continued to be of concern. A new
poverty survey conducted by UNRWA showed that the number of Palestine
refugees completely unable to secure access to food and lacking the
means to purchase even the most basic items, such as soap, school
stationary and safe drinking water (‘abject poverty’) has tripled
since the imposition of the blockade in June 2007.
1.4 Gaza’s ongoing Killing
There is ongoing assault on the Gaza strip by the Israelis. Since the
beginning of 2010, 18 Palestinians been killed and another 72
Palestinians (including 60 civilians)
1.5 Gaza Reconstruction and Recovery
Israeli military operations, including Operation Cast Lead, have
resulted in the damage or complete destruction of thousands of
shelters in Gaza.
Since June 2007, UNRWA has had construction projects worth almost USD
$100 million stalled due to the ban on the entry of construction
materials into Gaza under the blockade. This includes over 2,000 new
housing units, hundreds of dilapidated shelters unfit for living, and
dozens of new schools and health centres. In 2010, UNRWA’s most
urgent priority will be advocating for the end of the blockade to
permit the reconstruction and recovery of Gaza.
1.6 Gaza Freedom Flotilla
Gaza Freedom Flotilla departed this month where 600 fellow passengers
and activists joined from over 40 different countries globally,
including Greece, Ireland and Turkey to deliver 5000 tons of
reconstruction materials, school supplies and medical equipment, in
addition to five passenger ships. The initiative is aimed at bringing
desperately needed supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip, which has been
under a suffocating blockade for 2 years and 11 months.
2.1 Budget Deficit
Filippo Grandi, the new commissioner general of UNRWA, appealed for
funding saying that half a million children would end up on the street
if an $89 million shortfall is not provided by September 2010.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said that the current deficit was
unusually high compared to previous years.“It’s got worse
significantly, for several reasons “First, because the number of
refugees we serve goes up every year. The status of all refugees, also
those served by the UNHCR, is conferred through the generations,
pending a durable solution, so the number of refugees will continue to
“Other reasons have to do with the global financial crisis,” he
continued. “The squeeze on overseas assistance has become
2.2 UNRWA Girls Scoop "Special Award" At World's Top Science
Three girls from the UNRWA School at Askar Camp in Nablus have made
history by becoming the first Palestinians to win an award at the
world's premier youth science competition. Aseel Abu Aleil, Aseel
Alshaar and Noor Alarada were competing with 1500 finalists from
around the world. They picked up a "special award in applied
electronics" at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose,
In Lebanon, refugees face a situation of restricted rights and social
instability. As "foreigners" without benefit of reciprocal privileges,
they are precluded from obtaining work without permission from the
state authorities, and prohibited from working in the professions.
Refugees are also denied social benefits and access to critical public
services such as health care. Property restrictions and barriers to
housing tenure create further insecurity for refugees in Lebanon.
3.1 Lebanon is urged to create a ministry for Palestinian refugees.
13th may 2010
The Issam Fares Center for Lebanon (IFCL) made a number of
recommendations aimed at solving the problems encountered by
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
The proposal provided areas of improvement to the Lebanese
government, the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian factions, UNRWA
and the UN, and Arab and international donors.
The recommendations addressed the Lebanese government and asked that
a ministry for Palestinian Refugee Affairs be created and a global
rescue plan be formed with the collaboration of international
organizations and Arab countries.
It called upon the UN agency to create a realistic rescue plan to
turn the camps from “ghettoes” into safe and joyful havens for
their inhabitants.” It also asked the UN and UNRWA to prepare for an
international conference with the participation of Arab, European,
American and Asian donor countries.
3.2 Nahar al Bared military confrontation
The 2007 military confrontation in Nahr el-Bared Camp, originally
established by the League of Red Cross Societies in 1949, resulted in
the total destruction of the camp and the homelessness of some 27,000
refugees. The camp was pounded with heavy artillery and aerial
bombardments during the three-month siege. An estimated 95 per cent of
all buildings and infrastructure were either destroyed or damaged
beyond repair. Most of the camps 40,000 refugees were forced to flee
during the confrontation in 2007. The fighting and the subsequent
destruction of Nahar al Bared camp is the worst in two decades.
The first stages of a major reconstruction and recovery effort – to
rebuild the camp and allow displaced refugees to return to their homes
– are now underway.
A phased approach to reconstruction is planned, through which
families will gradually begin to return to their homes inside the
camp. The reconstruction is due to be completed by mid-2012.
The international community donated 20 million dollars for the
redevelopment of Nahar al Bared.
4.1 Worries over Deficit
UNRWA’s growing budget deficit which is negatively impacting
universal access to services for refugee communities. Refugees
residing in camps – around 30% of all refugees in Syria and 25% in
Jordan – typically face chronic impoverishment and overcrowded
4.2 More Assistance to Palestinian Refugees in Syria
Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, the Syrian Arab Republic
Government, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for
Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) inaugurated a newly
constructed community center that will benefit nearly 144,000
Palestinian refugees living in Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. The
United States contributed $1.4 million to support the construction of
the community center.
4.3 Palestinian Refugees from Iraq
DAMASCUS, Syria, February 1 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency closed
the Al Tanf refugee camp between the borders of Syria and Iraq and
relocated the last of the Palestinian refugees who had been stranded
in the bleak no-man's land for nearly four years.
Some of the refugees from Al Tanf have been relocated in Canada,
Cyprus, Sweden and UK where PRC has provided assistance.
There are still hundreds of Palestinians in Al Hol and Al Waleed Camp
waiting for repatriation. The Palestinian Return Centre is working
with Syrian officials, UNRWA and UNHCR for a resettlement plan for the
5. PALESTINIANS IN DIASPORAS
5.1 Berlin 8th Annual Conference
The 8th Palestinians in Europe Conference concluded its sessions and
actions in Berlin. The Conference is the 8th in a series of
conferences that bring together Palestinians from all across Europe.
It was attended by over 10 thousand people. The Conference was titled
"Return is eventual, and freedom for Prisoners"
The conference made a number of declarations including that
Palestinians in Diaspora and occupied Palestine is one unity of same
legacy, identity, culture and traditions. The Palestinian nation is
proud of its historical roots. The Palestinians are one nation and no
effort to separate them will succeed. Our Palestinian people hold fast
to their rights to resist Israeli occupation by all means guaranteed
by all humanitarian laws and charters.
Right of Return to our land and home is an inalienable human right
guaranteed under international law. We, Palestinians, gave no one the
right to speak on our behalf to barter this basic human rights. We are
certain that our return is inevitable and will come true one day.
Prepared by The Palestinian Return Centre