Monday, November 30, 2020

World Refugee Day 2019: Palestinians still make up the largest refugee population in the world

By Patty Diphusa - June 20, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [UNRWA] [refugees]


Every year on 20 June, 'World Refugee Day' is held to commemorate the “strength, courage, and resilience” of millions of refugees worldwide.

World Refugee Day has been celebrated annually since 2001 after the approval of a UN resolution in December 2000. However, despite the national day of recognition, the situation of Palestinian refugees remain unresolved, and their livelihoods continue to face critical challenges.

Palestinians constitute the largest refugee group in the world, with around 5.9 million refugees scattered around the globe in 2018 according to the International Middle East Media Center.

A Palestinian refugee is defined by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict”.  The descendants of Palestinian refugee males are also provided with refugee status.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics report over 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homeland to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and surrounding countries after the 1948 “Nakba” or “Catastrophe” during the creation of the state of Israel.

According to Al Jazeera, by the end of the 1967 war, Israel had driven out another 300,000 Palestinians from their homes. Palestinians displaced after the 1967 war, however, are not given refugee status.

According to a 2018 study by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, outside of Palestine, Jordan holds the largest community of Palestinian refugees with approximately 39 per cent of the total Palestinian refugee population, followed by Syria (10.5 per cent) and Lebanon (9.1 per cent).

Within the Palestinian State, refugee poverty rates remain high in contrast to the rest of the population. In 2017, 39% of Palestinian refugees were under the poverty line, compared to 22.3% of non-refugee Palestinians.

The question of Palestinian refugees and their 'Right of Return’ to their historical homeland has long been avoided by Israel during the multiple “peace” talks and processes held throughout the years.

During the Oslo Peace Process, such concerns were conditioned to the “final status negotiations”. However, these negotiations have never taken place and are unlikely to under current US President Trump’s so-called "Deal of the Century" which also does not address the core issue of the 'Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees.

A senior Palestinian leader told Reuters that “the Palestinian cause is being liquidated - no Jerusalem (as capital), no right of return for refugees, no sovereign state. That is why this American project is dangerous”.

The situation of Palestinian refugees is not only under great challenges for the lack of treatment in international negotiations but also since Washington ended its aid to UNRWA in 2018, bringing Palestinian finances to the border of collapse as the Middle East Monitor reported.

The UN agency provides access to education to over 526,000 students, health services to 3.1 million Palestinian refugees, delivers relief and social services to more than 250,000 individuals and support over 1.7 million food insecure people.


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