Palestinian Refugees in Arab States: A Rights-Based Approach (2009)

This paper tackles the issue of Palestinian refugees in host Arab states, their legal status and rights. The paper’s criteria can be found in those universally accepted standards applicable to refugees, as a special category of persons in need of national and international protection and assistance, and in those minimum guarantees (human rights and freedoms) which are present in international conventions and declarations, applicable both in times of armed conflict/occupation and peace. This paper suggests that these international measures adopted for Palestinian refugees are unsuitable and insufficient in the context of long conflicts and long-standing occupation. It is true that the Palestinian refugee issue is unique. However, it is a legal distortion to understand this uniqueness as a reason to treat Palestinian refugees differently from other refugees, as if they stand outside International Refugee Law. The policies of host states and of the international community, this paper suggests, demonstrate that the basic rights and freedoms of individuals take second place to the formulation of national policies in their legal texts. The exclusion of Palestinians from international protection mechanisms has rendered the position of millions of Palestinians in host Arab states precarious. Besides, in the case of the Palestinians, ‘refugeehood’ is accompanied by statelessness; accordingly, it becomes a source of instability, insecurity and risk, for both the country of first refuge, and third states, which are possible targets of refugee migration. The rights-based approach that this paper adopts underlines the need to take not only the needs of refugees but also their rights seriously in order to identify certain standards of treatment to which an individual refugee is entitled. Rights, after all, imply justiciability, responsibility and accountability.

Khalil, Asem. Palestinian Refugees in Arab States: A Rights-Based Approach. CARIM ResearchPaper 2009/08. Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, San Domenico di Fiesole (FI) European University Institute, 2009.

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