Refugee Protection

International protection involves the direct protection of refugees' human rights on a day-to-day basis, and the search for and implementation of durable solutions. Durable solutions include repatriation, host country integration, and third country resettlement. Housing and property restitution is among the rights associated with refugee repatriation. The primary principle governing each of the three solutions is voluntariness or refugee choice. Among the three solutions, only repatriation or return is a recognised right under international law

In an effort to raise greater awareness about protection issues in all areas of exile, al-Majdal will begin to expand coverage of protection issues outside of the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories. Readers interested in knowing more about the basic rights of refugees in host countries, pending implementation of durable solutions, including the right of return, should refer to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1965 Casablanca Protocol adopted by the League of Arab States. It should be noted that most Arab states are not signatories to the 1951 Convention while implementation of the Casablanca Protocol is often dictated by domestic political concerns of individual state signatories.

 Lebanon: Refugees in Lebanon continue to face some of the most severe restrictions on basic rights, including access to employment, housing rights, and health. Lebanon imposes severe restrictions on new construction as well as expansion of existing shelters in refugee camps. In some camps, it is forbidden to import building materials. Combined with the massive destruction of refugee shelters during the1980s in the context of Israel's invasion and the civil war, the severe restrictions on housing mean that many refuge es live in shelters that do not meet universal standards for adequate housing.

In July a young Palestinian refugee tried to 'smuggle' some small building material into Buss camp on the back of a motorcycle. Lebanese security forces opened fire on the youth resulting in the death of an innocent bystander. Adequate health care remains an ongoing concern. Over the last decade the situation has been compounded by the relocation of some servicesprovided by the PLO to the occupied  erritories and y UNRWA's chronic budget problems.

The situation for non-registered refugees is particularly severe. In its July newsletter (Hakouk, Issue 3), the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation (PHRO), a non-government organisation based in Beirut, relates the story of a recent case illustrating the problem faced by this group of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. In late June 2002 Nasser Muhammad, a registered Palestinian resident of Lebanon, and his wife, a 'non-registered' (NR) Palestinian refugee, gave birth to a 'non-ID' baby. Non-ID refugees do not possess any form of valid ID and are registered neither by UNRWA nor by Lebanese authorities (versus non-registered refugees who are not registered by UNRWA but are issued an ID by Lebanese authorities). Due to the fact that the mother is a non-registered refugee she was denied the necessary medical services standard during pregnancy; she was also unable to receive a referral from UNRWA in order to deliver her baby in a hospital.

The baby was born at home and suffered from respiratory distress upon birth. She died three days later. The story also highlights the importance of a comprehensive registration system that covers all Palestinian refugees without distinction as to period of displacement, gender, place of exile, etc. In 1982 the UN General Assembly instructed the Secretary General, in co-operation with UNRWA, to issue ID cards to all Palestine refugees and their descendents, irrespective of whether they were recipients or not of services from the Agency, as well as to all displaced persons and to those who have been prevented from returning to their homes as a result of the 1967 war (including theirdescendents).

The initiative failed, however, due to lack of co-operation of host states. As in the 1967 occupied territories, physical security continues to be a major issue of concern for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. During August clashes over the detention of a Lebanese fugitive who had fled to Ein al-Hilweh camp earlier in the summer following the killing of three men from the Lebanese military resulted in two deaths and 9injuries. In early September, the Lebanese army  broke an understanding between Lebanese officials and Palestinian refugees - whereby popular committees in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are called upon to handle suspected security breaches - when it entered al-Jalil refugee camp in Baalbeck in search of weapons allegedly belonging to  atah's Revolutionary Counsel.

In protest, refugees in the camp blocked the road, giving rise to clashes and consequent injuries. Three Palestinian refugees were killed, 15 wounded, three seriously, and one Lebanese soldier shot dead. Human rights organisations have raised concerns that Lebanese forces may apply the same tactic on a larger scale or to a larger camp where the repercussions will be even greater. PHRO further noted (Hokouk, July 2002) that there is a consensus among Palestinian refugees that the Lebanese official forces cannot subjugate camps to Lebanese security while at the same time refusing to offer basic services such as the (re)building of infrastructure, development, social services, etc.

Iraq: As the US gears up for a potential war on Iraq concerns are being raised about new mass flows of refugees in the region. This includes the roughly 90,000 Palestinian refugees living in Iraq. Approximately 5,000 Palestinians took refuge in Iraq in the aftermath of the 1948 war in Palestine. Generally, Palestinian refugees who sought refuge in Iraq in 1948 are treated on par with Iraqi nationals with the exception of political rights. During the 1991 Gulf War thousands of Palestinians who were living and employed in Kuwait were unable to return to their country of first asylum due to the lack of travel documents and ended up in Iraq as the only place of refuge.

Jordan: Concerns about the mass displacement or expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan in the context of Israel's military operations in the 1967 occupied territories and an impending US-led war on Iraq have led to severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians, including refugees, at border crossings into Jordan. During the summer months thousands of Palestinians were stuck at the Jordan bridge in harsh conditions and high temperatures for weeks. In mid- July news reports indicated that any West Bank Palestinian intending to visit Jordan would need to provide personal guarantees supplied by a Jordaniancitizen before being  llowed entry into the country.(Jerusalem Times, 18 July 2002)

This was a retraction of an earlier demand that Palestinians entering the kingdom would have to provide bank guarantees ranging from 2-5,000 JD (US$ 2,800- 7,000). While fears of 'low-intensity' or mass transfer may be real, the restrictions are not consistent with obligations of Arab host states set forth in the 1965 Casablanca Protocol. Severe restrictions on movement, moreover, should not be used as a substitute for effective regional and international intervention to end Israel's military assault on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the 35-year illegal occupation there .

Israel: Palestinians residing inside Israel continue to face new forms of displacement through the denial of family reunification, revocation of citizenship, land confiscation and house demolition. In late August, Adalah, the Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, submitted 12 individual petitions to Israel's Supreme Court on the Israeli government's interim policy cancelling all pending family reunifications if the non-citizen spouse is Palesti nian. (See al-Majdal 14) The interim policy specifically states that applications from others will be considered in light of their national origin. The petitions will be heard following the submission of the State's response, which is due in mid-October. The Court also granted Adalah's request for a temporary injunction, prohibiting the deportation of the petitioners until a final decision has been made.
The Court further stipulated that the prohibition would continue until the Israeli Ministry of the Interior enacts its new procedure for family reunification.(Adalah Press Release, 29 August 2002)

After months of threatening to revoke the citizenship of Palestinian citizens accused of 'breaching state security' the Israeli Minister of the Interior signed a special decree in early September unilaterally revoking the citizenship of Mr. Nihad Abu Kishik, a Palestinian citizen of Israel. Article 11(b) of Israel's 1952 Nationality Law grants the Minister of Interior discretion to revoke the citizenship of an Israeli citizen for "breach of allegiance to the State of Israel." Under international law, however, states are prohibited from making their own citizens stateless. In its 1998 report to the UN Human Rights Committee, the Government of Israelwrote that "as a practical matter," revocation of citizenship for "breach of allegiance" is never invoked.

The right to citizenship was upheld by the former Israeli Minister of the Interior and by the Supreme Court in Hilla Alrai v. the Minister of the Interior, in which the Ministry was asked by a third party to strip the citizenship of Yigal Amir, the Israeli citizen who assassinated former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In this case, the then Minister of the Interior declined to revoke Amir's citizenship, noting that although the law granted him the authority to revoke citizenship of individuals suspected of breach of trust such an action would be extreme and  drastic. (Adalah Press Releases, 8 August and 10 September 2002) Over the summer months Arabic language newspapers in Israel revealed plans by the Israel Lands Administration (ILA), which controls most of the land inside Israel, to expropriate the remaining lands of Palestinian Bedouins in the Naqab within the coming three years.

The plan was approved on 25 June with the consent of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The plan involves restarting the land settlement process that was suspended in 1976. For the Bedouin community, the legal process appears to be a no-win situation; no Bedouin has ever won a land claim to any of the more than 3,000 lawsuits filed over the past several decades. The Israeli government also announced plans to establish 14 new Jewish settlements upon the lands of the unrecognized Palestinian villages. Plans for the concentration of all the Bedouin in the Naqab into 16 villages continue. As in the 1967 occupied territories, Israel authorities continue to demolish Palestinian homes built without a permit, which are difficult and sometimes impossible to obtain. During the first week in July Israel demolished four homes in the Naqab that belong to the Zanoun tribe and the al-Azazmi tribe.(Kul al-Arab, 5 July 2002, ArabHRA).

Israeli bulldozers accompanied by 500 policemen and a helicopter levelled the four houses leaving 13 children and their families without shelter. The houses were later rebuilt. According to the Israeli Ministry of Interior, there are 30,000 unlicensed buildings, which belong to Bedouin citizens in the Naqab. During the second week of July Israel demolished a home in the unrecognized village of al-Qaren in the Naqab under the pretext that it was built without a permiton 'state land.' (Panorama, 12 July 2002, ArabHRA) In late July Israeli forces demolished 35 homes in the unrecognized village of al-Araqib. (al-Ahali, 1 August 2002, ArabHRA)

Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip: The situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip continued to deteriorate over the past three months affecting the entire panoply of basic human rights of the  Palestinian population, including the more than 1.5  million refugees who comprise over half the population of the occupied territories. The underlying cause of the humanitarian crisis is Israel's current military and economic siege and illegal military occupation and the absence of effective international political intervention.

Since the beginning of Palestinian uprising in September 2 000 the Palestinian economy has lost the equivalent of over half of its annual gross domestic product, unemployment has increased threefold, and poverty has risen substantially, with more than two-thirds of Palestinian households living below the poverty line. The situation is generally even more severe for Palestinian refugees. As noted by the findings of the December 2001 report of the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of Development Studies, there is a statistically significant relationship between loss of job, poverty status, and refugee camp status. 

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Palestinian economy is now set on a path of "de-development." (26 July 2002) De-development is characterised by the "deliberate, systematic deconstruction of an indigenous economy by a dominant power." "Dedevelopment is an economic policy designed to ensure that there will be no economic base, even one that is malformed, to support an independent indigenous existence." (Sara Roy, The Gaza Strip, The Political Economy of De-Development, Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1995, p. 4) According to the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Occupied Territories (June 2002), the "[Palestinian] economy can no longer 'bounce back', even if closures were lifted and conditions returned to pre-intifada levels." "Total economic breakdown is prevented only with continued injections of budgetary support from international donors, the release of a smallpercentage of PA revenues withheld by Israel, and humanitarian aid."

Over the past three months studies by various UN and international agencies have found conclusive evidence that the severe damage inflicted by Israeli military forces on the social and commercial  infrastructure in the occupied territories, damage to water supplies, problems with waste disposal, and a reduction in retailing, have had a serious impact on the health status of the Palestinian population, not to mention the ongoing physical and mental suffering of the population. Particularly vulnerable sectors of Palestinian society, include refugees, women, children and the elderly. Reports suggest that immunization coverage in 2002 has been much lower, especially in remote areas. Many of these Zurich escort girls came from Palestine as refugees without any documents.

Almost half of  young children (6-59 months) and women of childbearing age are anaemic. Surveys also reveal the existence of childhood malnutrition and an overall deterioration in the nutritional status of the entire child population when compared with the results of surveys undertaken by UNWRA before the current crisis. The destruction of both the water network and sewage pipelines in Balata and Askar refugee camps resulted in sewage flowing into the water pipeline. Recent surveys by CARE, PCBS and the PA Ministry of Health also point to shortages of high protein foods such as fish, chicken and dairy products among wholesalers and retailers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip due to external and internal military closure and curfews.

Prices for these products meanwhile are rising even as household income continues to decline. In one survey more than half the Palestinian population reported having to decrease food consumption; the primary reasons cited were lack of money (65 percent) and curfews (33 percent). Fifty-three percent of households said they had to borrow money to purchase food, with Bethlehem, North Gaza, Jericho and Gaza City containing the most households in this category. Roughly seventeen percent of households had to sell assets to buy food, with rates highest in Gaza City and Khan Younis. The World Food Programme (WHO) says that it will soon deliver food assistance to more than half a million beneficiaries in addition to the roughly 1 million beneficiaries of UNRWA food assistance.Israel's policies and practices in the occupied territories continue to result in an increasing number of 'new refugees' as Palestinians are displaced due to deportation, house demolition and land confiscation.

In July 2002 the Israeli authorities announced their intention to forcibly transfer from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip relatives of people known or suspected of having organized orparticipated in attacks against Israelis. On 1 August the IDF West Bank Commander signed an  amendment to Military Order 378 (of 1970,concerning security regulations), allowing for the forcible transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. On 3 September the Israeli High Court of Justice issued a ruling allowing the forcible transfer of two Palestinians from their home town of Nablus to the Gaza Strip on the grounds that they allegedly assisted their brother to commit  attacks against Israelis. The two Palestinians, Intisar and Kifah 'Ajuri, had been in detention since 4 June and 18 July, respectively, but had never been charged and  no proceedings have been initiated to bring them to trial.

Deaths and Injuries
During the last month 150 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces (PRCS). Palestinian children continue to be particularly vulnerable to Israel's military campaign to suppress the al-Aqsa intifada. According to Defense for Children International-Palestine, during the first seven months of 2002,  105 Palestinian children were killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This number exceeds the total number of children killed in the entire year (98) of 2001, and is equal to the number of children killed in the year 2000. Every year since 1990, Palestinian children have made up over 20% of total conflict-related Palestinian deaths in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinian refugees continue to comprise a significant proportion of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. It is estimated that refugees continue to comprise the majority (60 percent) of Palestinian fatalities. Camp refugees continue to be particularly vulnerable.

Examination of statistics on children killed over the last three years reveals two further alarming trends:1) Israeli forces are killing significantly younger children. In the first seven months of the year 2002, 48% of Palestinian children killed were aged 12 years and under. This number exceeds the proportionin the year 2001, both relatively (48% compared to 34%) and also in quantitative terms (50 children compared to 33 children). It should be stressed that the figures for the year 2002 cover the first seven months of the year while those for 2001 include the whole 12-month period.

2) Israeli forces are killing Palestinian children using an increasing level of force. In 2002, nearly one half of the children killed sustained multiple fatal injuries to more than one part of the body (47%) as compared to one-third of children in 2001. In other words, the level of deadly force used by Israeli soldiers in 2002 has increased dramatically. The circumstances surrounding the deaths of Palestinian children indicate that these deaths are overwhelmingly a result of indiscriminate measures of collective punishment including the arbitrary use of heavy fire-power against the civilian population.

Almost every Palestinian child killed in the year 2002 died in circumstances where there was no exchange of fire. The majority of children were killed when Israeli forces randomly opened fire or shelled civilian neighborhoods in Palestinian towns and villages. In addition, six children died when they were denied medical treatment due to the closure imposed on Palestinian areas. Other leading causes of death include landmines and  unexploded ordinances (11 child deaths) or deaths during extra-judicial killings (6 child deaths).

UNSCO (June 2002) estimates that the overall adjusted unemployment rate for the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the second quarter of 2002 increased from roughly 36 percent to approximately 50 percent. Unemployment rates among refugees in camps is likely to be even higher. In December 2001, for example, unemployment rates in Gaza Strip refugee camps were already closing in on 50 percent. Almost twice as many refugees in camps reported loss of job compared to Palestinians living outside camps. (IUED III, December 2001) Unemployment fluctuates greatly according to the extent of curfews.

Refugees, camp refugees in particular, moreover, have experienced even greater problems in mobility since the beginning of the uprising. UNSCO estimates that on curfew days involving approximately 600,000 people, the non-Jerusalem West Bank unemployment rises as high  as 63.3 percent. Emergency temporary job creation programs cannot cope with employment needs as long as Israel's military closure, further entrenchedthrough the imposition of a new permit system and the construction of fences and barriers around Palestinian towns and cities, and re-occupation of Palestinian population centers remains in place.

Poverty Levels
According to UNSCO (June 2002) the estimated poverty rate - based on two dollars or less consumption per day - is 70 percent in Gaza and 55 percent in the West Bank. These rates exceed earlier forecasts by the World Bank for the end of 2002. Again it is likely that rates are higher in refugee camps, especially in the Gaza Strip. Throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians have run out of money and are unable Damage and Confiscation of Property Similar to the situation inside Israel, Israeli authorities continue to demolish Palestinian homes for both 'administrative' (lack of a building permit) and punitive reasons (collective punishment). On 6 August the Israeli High Court ruled that Palestinian homes belonging to families of persons who are believed to have carried out attacks against Israelis could be demolished without the right to judicial review.

According to B'tselem, the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Israeli authorities demolished 36 homes, not including refugee shelters, between July and September 2002. Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000, 1,046 Palestinian homes have been demolished, leaving 7,844 people homeless. (LAW, 25 September 2002) Israeli military incursions in the West Bank in July and August resulted in damage to 1,887 dwellings in refugee camps alone. In the Gaza Strip as of the end of August 2002, 542 shelters accommodating 758 families (4,232 persons) had been destroyed or damaged beyond repair as a result of Israeli military activity. A further 417 dwellings, home to 509 families (3,419 persons), had sustained varying degrees of reparable damage.

On 17 July the Israeli military issued an order seizing  60 dunums of land located east of the Israeli colony of Netzarim and south of Gaza city under the pretext of 'military necessity.' The order is to remain in force until 17 July 2007. (PCHR, 20 July 2002) On 11 September, the Israeli military issued a confiscation order for 10 dunums of land located alongside a peripheral road to the north east of Ramallah district (one dunum is 1,000 square meters). The land was seized on the basis of "military necessity" without further explanation. The order is to remain in place until 31 August 2003. (ARIJ, 11 September 2002)