In 2011, fighting broke out in Syria, creating over three million refugees fleeing mainly to surrounding Arab countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. Alongside the Syrian citizens affected by the conflict is a population of about half a million Palestinian refugees. As former Commissioner-General of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Filippo Grandi, put it in a January 2014 lecture at the American University of Beirut:
In some cases, Palestinians (and indeed other civilians) have left en masse, either fleeing from fighting or forced away at gunpoint. The dynamics shift along with the geography of the conflict, each camp experiencing it in different but equally devastating ways. Even Palestinian camps that have been relatively safe and are housing many displaced refugees, like in Homs, or in Jaramaneh near Damascus, sit precariously adjacent to battle zones. In the space of a few months, between the end of 2012 and the first months of 2013, life suddenly became very precarious for thousands of Palestinians in Syria. Just a week ago – in one more example of the blatant disregard for the laws of war that has characterized this conflict – an explosion close to an UNRWA school near Dera’a, left 18 dead, including five UNRWA school children and one staff member.
Cairo Studies on Migration and Refugees- Center for Migration and Refugee Studies at the American University in Cairo
Displacing the Displaced
Challenging the International Framework for Palestinian Refugees in light of the Syria Crisis
(published October 2014)
In 1948 approximately 750,000 Palestinians were displaced for the first time. As of 2014, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) counts over 5 million Palestine refugees. Many of those refugees no longer reside in their first country of asylum but have been repeatedly displaced following expulsions, political unrest and conflicts in host countries.
In 2011, fighting broke out in Syria, creating over three million refugees fleeing mainly to surrounding Arab countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. Alongside Syrian citizens affected by the conflict is a population of about half a million Palestinian refugees in Syria. While Syrians themselves often have a difficult time in countries of refuge, Palestinian refugees in Syria who are also fleeing from the same conflict face additional obstacles such as denied access to territory and forcible return.
The following paper aims to analyse the interplay between the international framework for Palestinians and the respective policies in place in Jordan and Lebanon, with a special focus on the refugee movement from Syria. I argue that the international measures adopted for Palestinian refugees are unsuitable and inadequate to manage their protracted and multiple displacements occurring since the 1940s.
My article on Palestinian and Syrian Refugees in Egypt was cited by Robert Fisk in his article for The Independent on the polio outbreak in Syria.
But within days of the military coup in Cairo the so-called “interim” government now in place brought immigration restrictions back, and the Egyptian press, as lickspittle now as it was during Mubarak’s heyday, began a campaign against both Palestinians and Syrian refugees, claiming that the Syrians had supported Morsi. One media presenter, as Cairo researcher Jasmin Fritzsche has pointed out, has even demanded that Egyptians destroy the homes and shops of Syrians if they did not withdraw their support from Morsi.
Egypt’s armed forces appear to be leading a revival of Egyptian nationalism since the ousting of Mohamed Morsi. The civic state with equal rights for all citizens, the respect for Egypt’s security institutions, and the prominence of national security are central themes for the interim government. As with every such sentiment, this re-emerging nationalism only functions in opposition to an “other.” Due to recent political developments, the Muslim Brotherhood takes on the role of this other in the eyes of the current government and other pro-military institutions. This perception is also based on the alleged links between Morsi and the Syrian opposition as well as the Palestinian organization Hamas. Amplifying those links—and the alleged support of Syrian and Palestinian nationals for the Muslim Brotherhood—not only led to the de-nationalization of the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, but also created a strong anti-Syrian and anti-Palestinian sentiment in Egypt. This has resulted in a major change to the asylum policy regarding Syrian refugees, among other measures. Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Egypt have become a pawn in the government’s fight against the Muslim Brotherhood.
Arabische Brüderlichkeit im Widerstreit
Seit Juni wurden hunderte arabische Flüchtlinge aus Ägypten abgeschoben. Während Syrer unter Präsident Mursi noch hofiert wurden, vegetieren palästinensische Flüchtlinge in Ägypten seit jeher in einer rechtlichen Grauzone.