The UN Human Rights Council issued a document last week by its reliably anti-Isrsel team of “experts” demanding that Palestinian “refugees” have the right to “return” under international law.
Right of return of Palestinian refugees must be prioritised over political considerations: UN experts
2022 marked the largest ever increase in the number of forcibly displaced persons worldwide, with over 108 million people across the globe uprooted from their homes, more than half are women and girls….This reality is all too familiar for the Palestinian people, 75 years since the Nakba – the event that shattered Palestinian lives and severed their ancestral connection to their land during the establishment of the State of Israel. Since then, they have endured forced displacement, dispossession, and disenfranchisement, with their rights to self-determination, restitution, and compensation repeatedly denied. For 75 years, their cry for justice, embodied in the demand for the right to return, has resounded with unwavering determination.For Palestinians, forced displacement has become part of their life for generations, tracing back to 1947-1949 when over 750,000 Palestinians were forced to flee massacres and mass expulsions and forcible transfers during the birth of the State of Israel. The majority, along with their descendants, are still in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, while 40 per cent of them remain under occupation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967. Progressively, Palestinian exile has scattered them across various nations globally.
Since 1948, both the General Assembly and the Security Council have consistently called upon Israel to facilitate the return of Palestinian refugees and provide reparations. Despite these repeated appeals, Palestinian refugees have been systematically denied of their right to return and forced to live in exile under precarious and vulnerable conditions outside the borders of Palestine.
In looking at who is a Palestinian refugee, there is no definitive response. The definition and the number of Palestinian refugees can differ according to the approach (administrative, juridical, political) used to define Palestinian refugees and also according to the social context of interaction between Palestinians (registered refugees or not) and others and the actors defining them. UNRWA, particularly at the beginning of its mandate, lacked a fixed definition; this changed mainly due to a need to delimit the number of relief recipients. When the Agency began its activities, it inherited a legacy of inflated registration: the United Nations Economic Survey Mission recorded approximately 720,000 people, while the number of recipients on the ration rolls of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR) surpassed 950,000. It is the 1952 definition that has become the accepted one and has remained virtually unchanged: “a Palestine refugee shall mean any person whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period June 1, 1946 to May 15, 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict”.Some remarks should be noted…. [T]he descendants of original registered refugees inherited UNRWA’s administrative title independently of the fact that they may have obtained a nationality and/or left the Agency’s fields of operation.It is important to emphasize that the UNRWA definition of a Palestine refugee is an administrative one and does not translate directly into recognition by international law. Furthermore, a tacit understanding seems to prevail: UNRWA’s continued existence (and the associated Palestine refugee status) is directly linked to the realization of a permanent resolution to the Palestine refugee issue.
2. The UNRWA definition of “refugee” is administrative, not legal, and has nothing to do with the legal definition of refugee under international law and the Refugee Convention.