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Brief History of the Palestinian Refugee & IDP Case (from

Palestinian refugees and internally displaced Palestinians (IDPs) represent the largest and longest-standing case of forced displacement in the world today. On the 60th anniversary of the Nakba (or ‘Catastrophe’), the destruction of Palestine and the massive displacement of Palestinians by Israel in 1948, two out of every ?ve refugees in the world are Palestinian. At the beginning of 2007, there were approximately seven million Palestinian refugees and 450,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), representing 70% of the entire Palestinian population worldwide (9.8 million).

Palestinian refugees include those who became refugees following the ?rst Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and the second Arab-Israeli war in 1967, as well as those who are neither 1948 nor 1967 refugees, but outside the area of former Palestine and unable or unwilling to return owing to a well-founded fear of persecution.

The largest group of Palestinian refugees is made up of those who were displaced or expelled from their places of origin as a result of the Nakba. IDPs include Palestinians who were displaced within Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).

Internal displacement continues unabated in the OPT today. Thousands have been forcibly displaced in the Jordan Valley as a result of closure, home demolition and eviction orders, and the threat of displacement hangs over those who remain. Similar patterns of forced displacement are found in Israel, where urban development plans for the exclusive bene?t of Jewish communities are displacing indigenous Palestinian communities in the Naqab (Negev) and Galilee.

Palestinian refugees in host countries are also vulnerable to forced displacement. For instance, as a result of the US-led aggression and occupation of Iraq since 2003, persecution has forced over half of the approximately 34,000 Palestinian refugees residing in Iraq to leave the country. Over 31,000 people were displaced from Nahr al-Bared camp in Lebanon in 2007 and most have not returned.

Six decades after their initial forced displacement from their homeland, Palestinian refugees and IDPs still lack access to voluntary durable solutions and reparations (which include return, restitution, compensation) based on international law, UN resolutions and best practice.

Assistance, Protection & Reparations for Palestinian Refugees & Internally Displaced Persons

Refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have the right to assistance and protection. International assistance and protections are required when national authorities are unable or unwilling to act on their obligations. The right of refugees and the obligations of states are set out in the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Assistance includes provision of food, shelter, health and education. Protection activities include ensuring asylum, securing basic human rights, provision of travel documents, and facilitating voluntary durable solutions (repatriation, resettlement, and integration).

Repatriation is the only solution that is a right. All persons displaced as a result of gross violations of human rights law and war crimes are also entitled to remedies and reparations. The right to a remedy and reparation is enshrined in the law of state responsibility.

In the aftermath of the 1948 Nakba, a special regime for assistance, protection and reparations was set up for Palestinian refugees. The regime was initially composed of the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) and the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Near East (UNRWA) and eventually included the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UNCCP was mandated to provide protection to Palestinian refugees, including the search for durable solutions and reparations, but failed and effectively ceased to operate in the mid-1950s. UNRWA is mandated to provide assistance to 1948 and, on an emergency and temporary basis, 1967 Palestinian refugees and to those displaced as a result of subsequent hostilities. Although UNRWA has enhanced its protection activities by means of a rights-based approach to assistance and emergency operations, there remains a lack of protection for Palestinian refugees, especially for those living in UNRWA’s area of operation (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the OPT).

UNRWA faces many difficulties in implementing its mandate due to funding shortages and armed con?icts in the region, in particular Israel’s military occupation. Outside UNRWA’s area of operations, UNHCR is the international agency responsible for providing both assistance and protection to Palestinian refugees. Palestinian refugees are often denied the rights guaranteed under the 1951 Refugee Convention when they seek asylum. National protection of 1948 and 1967 Palestinian refugees in particular has been ineffective as a result of non-application or misinterpretation of Article 1D of the 1951 Refugee Convention by national authorities and courts.

No international agency has a mandate to provide assistance and protection for internally displaced Palestinians in Israel. In the OPT, UNRWA and other international organizations may provide limited temporary emergency assistance to some IDPs but no comprehensive and predictable response exists. No international agency, moreover, is searching for comprehensive durable solutions, including reparations, for Palestinian refugees. UNHCR and UNRWA believe that the search for durable solutions should be undertaken by parties to the con?ict.

Unlike most refugees and displaced persons, who usually seek protection against refoulement (forcible return), the primary problem facing Palestinian refugees is Israel’s denial of their right to reparations, including return, to their homes of origin. Although this right is enshrined in international law and af?rmed by many UN resolutions, in particular UN resolutions 194 (1948) and 237 (1967), it has not been enforced. Displaced Palestinians have no access to courts that could provide effective remedies and reparations.