Wednesday, November 04, 2015

  • Wednesday, November 04, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon
Ma'an published a report from the Shabaka NGO. Excerpts:

In January 2013, the Jordanian government announced a non-entry policy for Palestinian refugees. Since then, those Palestinians who had been able to cross into Jordan (usually relying on forged documents or smugglers) have lived in fear of being arrested and deported back to Syria. Furthermore, Palestinians who fled to Jordan cannot legally live in the refugee camps established for Syrians, but at the same time, cannot legally work to earn money to rent housing outside of camps. The one exception is Cyber City, which is more of a detention center than a refugee camp, and where Jordanian authorities have been transferring Palestinians who are in the country clandestinely since April 2012. Palestinians are confined to Cyber City unless they decide to return to Syria.
As for Lebanon, the authorities began requiring as of the end of 2013 that Palestinians from Syria apply for a visa before entering the country. And as of May 2014, Lebanese authorities were only allowing Syria-registered Palestinian refugees entry into the country if they had the documents needed to travel to a third country, limiting their stay in Lebanon to a maximum of nine hours. In May 2014, restrictions were placed on the ability of Palestinians from Syria to legally renew their residency papers. As a result, the majority of Palestinians from Syria who are currently in Lebanon live under the threat of arrest and deportation to Syria.
In Egypt, the government does not allow Palestinian refugees to register with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). At the same time, Egypt falls outside of the area of operation of the UNRWA. Consequently, there is currently no UN agency responsible for the protection and assistance of Palestinian refugees in Egypt. Additionally, it has become all but impossible for Palestinians from Syria to get visas to Egypt. Because Palestinians (unlike other refugees in Egypt) cannot register with UNHCR, they cannot get residency permits, receive food vouchers, medical assistance, or any other services provided by UNHCR. Palestinians can currently apply for a one-month visa to travel to Egypt, but they also need to get clearance from Egyptian security services, a clearance that is rarely granted. Palestinians fleeing Syria for Egypt have been subjected to arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention or deportation to a third country, and collective expulsion by Egyptian authorities.

...The situation of Palestinians from Syria who are already inside Turkey is also far from ideal: Because Turkey is not part of UNRWA’s area of operations, Palestinians in Turkey do not have access to the agency’s assistance. Normally, these Palestinians would fall under UNHCR’s mandate. However, UNHCR services, which are distributed through the Turkish government, are not reaching Palestinian refugees, whose legal status in Turkey remains unclear. Part of the problem is that the Turkish government does not allow UNHCR to perform refugee status determination on its soil.

A Separate and Unequal Legal Status
Palestinian refugees maintain a separate legal status from other categories of refugees. This separate status is enforced through an exclusion clause in article 1(D) of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees that states that the convention does not apply to persons who are already being assisted by another UN organ or agency. At the time of the signing of the 1951 convention, Palestinian refugees were already receiving services from UNRWA and the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine and were thus excluded from UNHCR’s mandate. However, if interpreted correctly, article 1 (D) also means that Palestinians who are located outside of UNRWA’s normal areas of operation or who are unable to access UNRWA assistance immediately fall under the mandate of UNHCR.
It is worth recalling that the exclusion of Palestinian refugees from UNHCR’s mandate was pushed by Arab states, who feared that absorbing Palestinians with other categories of refugees would harm the right of return as a primary solution for Palestinians who were expelled or fled from their homes in 1948. However, as has been noted in Badil’s publication Al-Majdal, this exclusion has also contributed to the “construction of a separate and unique category of ‘Palestine’ refugees and therewith created an environment in which discriminatory policies can flourish”. Indeed, it is clear from the examples above that Palestinians fleeing the conflict have seen their mobility and access to international protection curtailed in part because of their Palestinian identity and separate legal status.
Furthermore, Arab states often justify their discriminatory policies against Palestinians in the name of protecting the Palestinian right of return. In an interview with the newspaper al-Hayat, Jordan’s prime minister Abdalah Ensour justified Jordan’s restrictive policies toward Palestinians fleeing Syria by explaining that allowing Palestinians from Syria into Jordan would absolve Israel of its responsibility toward Palestinian refugees.
He ended his explanation by saying that “Our Palestinian Brothers have the right to return to their country of origin. They should stay in Syria until the end of the crisis”. Similarly, the Lebanese government has generally justified its denial of basic rights (such as the right to work or to own property) to Palestinians on its soil as a form of support for the Palestinian right of return that is predicated on the non-integration of Palestinians into Lebanese society. The current hardships faced by Palestinians from Syria who are in Lebanon or those trying to reach Lebanon cannot be divorced from Lebanon’s pre-existing policies toward Palestinians on its soil.
Isn't it remarkable that in a world where the Palestinian issue takes up so much of the United Nations' time and so much of the media's attention, practically no one is talking about how Arab nations are treating their Palestinian brethren?

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 12 years and over 25,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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