Shaml - Palestinian Dispora &Refugee Centre
P.O. Box 38152
East Jerusalem 9700
Telephone: (02) 998-7537 Fax: (02) 998-6598
Avoiding A Nightmare Scenario
In the current situation in the Middle East, the future of the Palestinian refugees looks grim and is a cause for concern. The reasons for this are the following:
1 - Information leaked, so far, from a document of principles being prepared jointly by the main two political parties in Israel, Likud and Labour, is disturbing. The document denies the refugees the right of return except to the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. There is a view (basically within the Labour Party) that favours implementing the return over a certain period of time (15 years).The other view (popular within the Likud Party) favours postponing this issue altogether and putting the matter aside until after the outcome of the permanent status negotiations or "the no solution" according to the current Israeli government's jargon.
2 - The host Arab countries have increased restrictions on Palestinian refugees thus limiting their ability to depend on themselves and to provide decent living standards for their families. They have been driven to emigrate to countries beyond the Arab region, thus inflicting grave social and political damages on the Palestinians and their national cause.
3 - The international community seems to be anxious to evade its responsibility by reducing its financial contribution to UNRWA. The budget of UNRWA for 1997 suffers from a deficit of $50-$60 million. Reducing the contributions to UNRWA leads to a reduction in its services and will consequently have a negative impact on the refugees and on stability in the region as a whole.
4 - Additional obstacles for derailing the peace process, put up by the Likud Party since it took office, cast doubt on its ultimate aim. Those involved in the peace process should be under no illusion that it is possible to resolve the refugee issue before a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state has been established. This is the very key to resolving this issue. Increasing pressure on Palestinians in nearby host countries and the loss of hope among Palestinians for finding security and safety in their future homeland, can only lead to an explosive situation. This is the nightmare scenario that the current peace process could well lead to. Hence it narrows rather than widens the scope of choice for Palestinian refugees and dashes rather than boosts their hopes for the future.
Priority at this stage should be given to ending the Israeli occupation and to enabling the Palestinians to develop their potentials within a free and sovereign state of their own. Priorities should also be given not only to increasing the financial contribution of Arab countries to UNRWA but also to focusing on the demand for the lifting of restrictions imposed on Palestinian refugees which constrain their freedom of work, travel and residency in Arab countries. To this effect, reform in legislation is required on the regional level to ensure wider choices for Palestinian refugees without prejudicing their political rights. It is time that all parties engage in serious talks to ensure that a durable solution to the refugee issue can be reached. It is also time for all parties to understand that so long as this issue is shelved, true peace can never be possible.
A Policy of Marginalization and Covert Deportation Facing Palestinians in Lebanon
Figures released by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for 1996 indicate there are 352,500 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, constituting 11% of Lebanon's population. 53.6% of Palestinians live inside the refugee camps whilst the rest live mostly in poor areas that surround these camps. There is reason to believe that the actual number of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon is at least about 70,000 - 100,000 less than the number indicated by UNRWA figures. Neither UNRWA figures, nor the figures released by the Lebanese government take into account the movement of Palestinian emigrants outside Lebanon. On the other hand Palestinians who acquired Lebanese citizenship have not had their names removed from the UNRWA registry.
When compared with other Palestinians living in Arab host countries, such as Jordan and Syria, Palestinians in Lebanon are the most marginalised and least assimilated in the host country. Although Palestinians have been in Lebanon for nearly 50 years, and despite the fact that two or three generations were born in Lebanon, Palestinians are still treated as foreigners and have been denied basic human rights. Successive Lebanese governments have denied the Palestinians civil, social and economic rights since they took refuge in Lebanon in 1948. Palestinians are not allowed to work in the public sector nor in governmental institutions nor to engage in most professions. They also have to obtain an official permit to work in the private sector. Obtaining work permits is a very difficult, almost impossible, matter. The Lebanese government issued 40,037 work permits to aliens in 1994, out of which only 350 were to Palestinians. Thus, the number of permits granted to Palestinians is minute when compared to those granted to Pakistani or Turkish visitors in that year.
Work restrictions imposed on Palestinians in Lebanon, and the lack of access to the labour market of oil producing Gulf countries have led to a rise in the unemployment rate among Palestinians. The figure exceeds 80% among young people (age group 18-30). This situation gave rise to the exploitation of workers in the labour force's black market in breach of Lebanese labour laws. This situation has also meant that Palestinian workers are not granted any rights or social security benefits.
The average income for a Palestinian refugee is no more than $60 per month. This is less than one third of the minimum wage rate in Lebanon. On the other hand, the poverty rate amongst Palestinians in Lebanon has been rising in a pattern unparalleled in other Palestinian communities. According to UNRWA figures, the 'Hardship Cases'(HC) among Palestinians in Lebanon is the highest compared to those in other host countries. The HC rate in Lebanon is 12% compared to 9% in Gaza, where the poverty level is the second highest.
More than half the Palestinians in Lebanon live in 12 refugee camps which were severely hit and damaged as a result of the Lebanese civil war and Israeli raids. These camps lack basic services and utilities required to maintain the minimum level human living standards. On the other hand, there are about 20,000 Palestinians who were displaced during the Lebanese civil war who are still without shelter. The Lebanese government rescinded on its housing project of 1993 which was to build alternative houses for Palestinians in the Al-Kharoub region south of Beirut. This was in response to a widely publicised campaign against the project. The project, if it had been carried out, would have been funded by UNRWA.
Palestinians in Lebanon are almost fully dependent on UNRWA for their educational and health services. That is why the cuts in UNRWA's budget in recent years were a harsh blow to the refugees. Statistics show a rise in the number of students leaving school at the primary and intermediate levels where the dropout rate is 20%. It jumps up to 50% at the secondary level since UNRWA does not, as a rule, provide secondary education. This is why only 12.5% of the Palestinian population in Lebanon are in schooling, compared to 28.2% in Syria.
As for health services, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that at least one hospital bed is needed for every 1,000 persons, while the average service provided by UNRWA makes only one hospital bed available for every 4,000 of the Palestinian population. In addition to this, the few hospitals that were set up by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) have suffered shortages in resources and in suitable equipment following the departure of the PLO from Lebanon in 1982. Thus health services were reduced to an insignificant level.
Palestinian families in Lebanon have been deeply affected by the recent measures which were taken by the Lebanese government regarding residency status, thus causing further family splits and hardships. Those measures, which were implemented in the summer of 1994 require that a return visa valid for a limited period of time be obtained by Palestinians who intend to travel out of the country. If they fail to return within the validity period of the visa they lose their right of abode. Palestinians abroad face even greater difficulties when they wish to have their travel documents renewed or when obtaining a return visa to Lebanon (this was not the case in the past). Semi official documents indicate that the names of more than 15,000 Palestinians who live or work outside Lebanon were deleted from the registry of the Lebanese Department for Palestinian Refugees. Their travel documents have not been renewed because they are no longer considered residents of Lebanon, having lived abroad or acquired a foreign nationality.
The sectarian structure of the Lebanese political system in which the Christian Maronites were dominant in the past prevented the acceptance of Palestinians into Lebanese society. This state of affairs continued even after Maronite dominance was greatly diminished by the end of the civil war. This exclusion of Palestinians is now justified by the pretext that a possible political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict is on the horizon. It may be noted that restrictions on Palestinians in Lebanon have significantly increased since the beginning of the peace process.
In this context it is worth noting the following:
1 - Civil rights for Palestinian refugees is basically a matter of human rights. Guidance in this matter is provided by a set of resolutions made by the League of Arab States, as well as by international conventions regarding refugees which delineate their civil, political, economic and social rights. It is regrettable that Lebanese groups calling for democracy and the respect for human rights have dropped the issue of Palestinian refugees' civil rights from their agenda. This raises a question mark concerning the desire of these groups to free themselves from narrow- minded sectarian attitudes.
2 - Justifying discrimination against Palestinians on the basis of refusing "Al-Tawteen" (resettlement) in the host country, and of maintaining the right of return to Palestine, is a skewed argument. Israel will not return these refugees on the ground of their suffering within the host countries; but will do so, fully or partially, when balance of power allows within the framework of a comprehensive peace settlement. The fact that Lebanese citizenship was granted to about 50,000 mostly Christian and wealthy Palestinian refugees does not help to justify the argument. Some Palestinians also acquired Lebanese citizenship as a result of the 1994 amendment to the nationality law which granted Lebanese citizenship to around 27,000 residents of southern border villages whose identity was not clearly defined until then.
3 - Discrimination against Palestinians is obviously harmful to the refugee issue. In real terms, it drives them to emigrate outside the Arab region. The number of Palestinians emigrating or seeking asylum in search of security has been on the increase in recent years, particularly to destination countries such as Canada, Germany and the Scandinavian group. The Lebanese authorities are quick to drop the names of those who leave from their registry and refuse to renew their travel documents. This ultimately leads to further upheaval, uprooting them yet again from anything they might have called their home, thus conceding to the Israeli policy of removing the refugee status of Palestinians and enforcing their disbursement beyond the Arab region.
4. Maintaining restrictions on Palestinians in Lebanon will continue to be the main obstacle to their future transformation into an integrated and self-sustaining group. Unless this obstacle is removed, Palestinians will continue to have no productive or effective role within Lebanese society. Palestinians had proved in the past that they were capable of fulfiling this role when the appropriate climate was provided to attract Palestinian capital during the sixties and seventies. This had a positive impact on Palestinians and the Lebanese alike. It is also not in Lebanon's interest, nor does it serve the cause of peace and stability in the area, to have a group of people on Lebanese territory who have bitter feelings regarding oppression, discrimination and social injustice.
It is difficult to foresee an early return of Palestinians in Lebanon to their original homeland. This is something that the Lebanese leadership is well aware of. Collective and forced expulsion is an option rejected by the international, Arab and Lebanese communities. That is why the Lebanese authorities seem instead to have embarked upon a covert policy of driving Palestinians out by means of a series of restrictive administrative acts. It is imperative and urgent that the Lebanese Government abandon such a course of action if it is to plan with greater realism and humanism, until such time as a fair and comprehensive peace is reached in the region which would truly end the climate of injustice towards those refugees.
Exit Permits Needed For Another Six Months
An official in the PNA's, Ministry of Interior Affairs announced recently that exit permits will still be required for another six months as of the beginning of 1997. According to the official, the aim of the extension is to enable Palestinians in PNA controlled areas to "acquire Palestinian Passports." The Under-Secretary at the Interior Ministry, Mr. Tamimi, advised Palestinians to present their applications at the ministry's offices without delay.
The PNA said earlier that by the end of 1996 no more exit permits will be required and that Palestinian passports will be the only documents needed for travelling abroad. The ID cards and the exit permits issued by the Israeli authorities were required in the past; but as a result of the peace accord the Palestinians have been able to travel with Palestinian passports. However, measures taken by the Israeli authorities have slowed down procedures for issuing these passports and more time is needed. In addition, the uncertainty still surrounding the relationship between the Palestinian future state and Jordan and the failure to clarify the position of Palestinian passport holders living in Jordan, give no comfort to Palestinians in PNA controlled areas.
Palestinian Source: Ethnic Cleansing is going on in Jerusalem
A Palestinian official said on January 14,1994 that Israel ordered more than 200 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to leave the city. This is part of the Israeli campaign to evacuate the city of any Arab presence. Mr. Azmi Abu Sa'oud, the Director of Social Services at Orient House, the semi official headquarters of the PLO in East Jerusalem, said "Israel withdrew residency permits from 233 Jerusalemites in the last couple of weeks". He added, "they were told that they had to leave within 15 days. The Israelis have been doing this for some time, but the campaign has escalated since the beginning of the new year". He pointed out that his office was receiving 30 similar complaints a week. He accused Israel of "staging a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Arabs in Jerusalem".
Most of the expulsion cases are of women from Jerusalem who are married to holders of Jordanian passports and who had previously lived outside Jerusalem. Other cases concern residents of east Jerusalem who have moved in order to live in Jerusalem's Arab suburbs. These suburbs are not considered by Israeli authorities to be within the boundaries of the city's municipality.
Abu-Sa'oud pointed out that Israeli authorities used health insurance documents to determine the actual address of residents and thus exclude them from consideration as Jerusalem residents when their addresses indicated an Arab suburban location. The Israeli High Court on 30th December last year endorsed the policy adopted by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, which sought to withdraw residence permits from Jerusalemites whose "life orbit" had gravitated beyond the city's defined parameters. The legal requirement that seven years should elapse before an individual loses his/her residence status was thus ignored.
In another development Israeli authorities persisted with their campaign against Al-Jahaleen Bedouins in order to expel them from the land and enable the expansion of the "Ma'ali Adumim" settlement in the south east of Jerusalem. There were about 50 families living since 1952 in this location, which is owned by Palestinians from the nearby suburbs of Abu Dis and Al-Ezarieh. The families were forcibly expelled from their location during the last few months. An Israeli lawyer, Linda Bryer, said that uprooting Arabs from their lands in order to settle a Jewish population instead is clear enough evidence of the racial character of the Israeli State. Bryer acted on behalf of the "Al-Jahaleen" Bedouins in the case brought before the Israeli High Court. The court ruled, in May 1995, that the "Al-Jahaleen" should be removed on the grounds that "the ownership deeds of the land had gone missing", and of the "Al-Jahaleen's" failure to prove that they had been continuously living in that location.
Israeli delegation fails to show up
The Israeli delegation failed to show up for the recent meeting of the Technical Quadripartite Committee on the Displaced of 1967 (TQCD). The meeting was supposed to be held in Bethlehem last December. A spokesman for the Palestinian side hosting the meeting said, " We were surprised to have been asked at the last minute by the Israeli Foreign Ministry to postpone the meeting without being given any explanation or any alternative date. The spokesman warned of the detrimental consequences that would ensue as a result of further delays in the work of the committee.
According to the protocol that was agreed upon by all parties the TQCD was to meet every three weeks, and yet there have been no meetings since the meeting held in Cairo in February 1996. Egyptian and Jordanian delegations ended up holding informal talks with their Palestinian counterparts in Gaza when the Israeli authorities refused to permit the head of the Palestinian delegation to travel to Bethlehem.
WGR Steering Committee Meeting; France's Absence Casts Doubts
The absence of France from a recent meeting held by the steering committee of the Working Group on Refugees (WGR) casts doubts on the effectiveness of the group itself. The meeting was held in the historic Jordanian city of Petra on 24-25 November, at Canada's invitation. Canada is the "gavel holder" of the WGR. Representatives of regional parties, shepherd countries that oversee various programs carried out by the group, and the co-sponsors of the peace talks (the USA and Russia) attended the meeting. The meeting, which was described as informal, was held without publicity and was designed to break out of the state of paralysis which the WGR found itself in after the Israeli Likud government took office. Observers interpreted France's absence as the shepherd of the family reunification program as a sign of frustration and discomfort due to lack of cooperation on the Israeli side.
Dr. Asa'ad Abdul-Rahman, the head of the Palestinian delegation, said that two proposals were put forward by the Palestinians during the meeting. The first was to raise the annual ceiling for the number of family reunifications to be accepted from 2,000 to 4,000. The second was to establish a special committee to oversee the family reunification program and overcome the difficulties experienced by the French in shepherding the programme. Abdul-Rahman disclosed also that Arab delegates felt that there was a need to consolidate links between working groups in the multilateral peace talks and the bilateral talks.
World Jewry Numbers 13 Million, One Third of Whom Reside in Israel
Statistics published recently in Israel show the overall number of world Jewry standing at around 13 million. Most Jews live in the United States and Canada, whilst 35% live in Israel. The third biggest community of world Jewry lives in Europe (12%). 5% are in Latin America, and 1% are in Asia, Australia and Africa. The recent figures were published in a special report issued by the "Hadasa" Institute.
On the other hand, figures released by the Israeli Bureau of Statistics at the end of 1996 indicate the following:
UNRWA Seeks A Widening Contributors' Base and Arab States Top The List
The General Commissioner of UNRWA, Peter Hensen, said in a recent statement that UNRWA is discussing an increase of financial contributions from donor countries, with the aim of widening the contributors' base and increasing support from Arab states, especially Gulf states. The statement followed an informal meeting of representatives from donor and host countries concerned with Palestinian refugees. This was held in the Jordanian capital in mid-December 1996. Hensen pointed out that contributions from Arab states constitute not more than 1% of UNRWA's budget. He hoped to bring this percentage up to around 15%. East Asian countries, the private sector and international agencies are also on the list of those Hensen seeks to raise funds from.
UNRWA estimates that its gross financial requirements for the 1997 budget will be $352 million, of which only $133 million have been paid. Hensen made it clear that if contributions remained as low as they are now, UNRWA will face a deficit of $50-$60 million. He pointed out the possibility that some projects would have to be terminated. He also said that although some donor countries responded positively at this initial stage, there were no long-term assurances offered. "We have cut enough of our budget and will be forced to look towards cancelling some projects". UNRWA says that the need of aid for refugees is on the increase because of the annual population growth rate, estimated to be 3.8%. It has become clear that the continuous budget deficit would, undoubtedly, affect services that the agency provides for around 3.3 million Palestinian refugees living in the Middle East.
Hensen expressed his disappointment at the recent Syrian decision to terminate the special exchange rate for UNRWA offered also to embassies and other UN organisations. He estimates that the decision has cost UNRWA around seven million US Dollars for 1996. He described the Syrian decision as 'regrettable.'
Prince Hassan of Jordan warned in his opening speech at the meeting that the financial difficulties which UNRWA faces are a cause of anxiety for the host countries, as well as for the international community at a time when the peace process is going through a difficult stage.
Dr. Asa'ad Abdul Rahman, the head of the Palestinian delegation, commented that the Arab states, which have refrained in the past from making contributions to UNRWA, took constructive steps recently in assisting the PNA and the refugees as part of their support for the peace process. He particularly praised Kuwait for its contribution. He also disclosed that the PLO is planning to open relief offices in Lebanon and Syria, to look into the welfare of refugees in these countries who are in difficulties and in need of help.
Women Given A Separate "Family Book"
The Director of the Department of Civil Affairs and Passports said that his Department is in the process of preparing a comprehensive study to review the existing laws that touch upon the status of women. The aim is to empower women with full civil and political rights. The Jordanian official spoke about some of the expected changes. He said that divorced women will be granted a separate " family book" if they so request. The separate family book will also be granted to widows who have children, as well as to wives of polygamous husbands. The new law will include a provision which allows a woman to include children under the age of 16 on her passport, if she so desires, and this without the need to seek the approval of the children's father. It will also entitle a Jordanian woman married to a foreigner to hold a separate family book. She will however not be able to include her husband's name nor the names of her children over the age of 16, who would take their father's nationality by law.
It should be noted that the family book in Jordan is a document which bears evidence of full citizenship, whereas the Jordanian passport given to Palestinians of the "West-Bank" is classified as a "temporary" document and is not considered an adequate proof of citizenship in its own right.
The latest decisions followed recommendations included in a field study prepared by the National Committee for Women's Affairs headed by Princess Basma, the Jordanian monarch's sister.
Egyptian Women in Search of a Nationality for Their Children
A number of Egyptian women facing the problem of their inability to pass their nationality on to their children, held a meeting in London in mid December. A spokeswoman for the group said, "Thousands of Egyptian women who are married to foreigners increasingly face this problem". Egyptian law, like that in most Arab countries, does not permit Egyptian women to pass their nationality on to their children, even if these were born in Egypt, or have permanently resided there.
Egyptian women face additional problems if their husbands happen to be stateless. This applies to most Palestinians who carry travel documents issued by the Egyptian authorities or by other Arab states. The spokeswoman added that some members of the group are thinking of taking the government to court on the grounds that the nationality law discriminates against women.
Unconfirmed news sources reported recently that a bill was put forward in the Egyptian Parliament by at least one member to introduce legislation permitting the children of an Egyptian mother and foreign father to acquire Egyptian nationality.
The aim of passing such a bill is to put an end to the misery of many families who suffer as a result of mixed marriages, particularly in the case of Egyptian women married to stateless Palestinians. Most cases fall under that category. Children of such marriages have so far been given the same treatment as their fathers, who, as foreigners, are subject to restrictions imposed on their residency, their freedom of movement, their right to work and their access to government education, social security and to health services. As a result, scattered families and mounting social problems have been on the increase. This has lately led some countries to address this problem. Both Lebanon and Jordan introduced provisions to the nationality laws which allow children - under certain conditions- to carry their mother's nationality when the father is stateless.
Arab World Exports Three Times As Many Refugees As It Receives
Experts who participated in the Arab Regional Conference on Population, held in Cairo in mid December 1996, confirmed that the number of refugees leaving Arab countries is three times greater than the number of refugees which these countries receive. Mr. Abul Hamid Al-Wali, a legal adviser for the Middle East and South West Asia at the UNHCR, said that the number of refugees in Arab countries was 588,400 at the end of 1995. The number of Arab refugees in neighbouring countries was 1,484,000. The adviser added that most of the refugees in Arab countries were African and that the majority were in Sudan. Sudan received 450,000 refugees, in addition to nearly 4 million displaced who are already there because of the civil war that has been going on since 1983.
Some points came to the forefront during the discussion of Al-Wali's paper, amongst which were that:
Ban on Civil Marriages Complicates Life for Married Couples of Differing Religions.
Thousands of Lebanese, both Christian and Muslim, find themselves obliged to make the trip to Cyprus to undergo civil marriage procedures which cannot be carried out in Lebanon. However, the couples soon come to realise that this creates further complications to their civil affairs in Lebanon. Such complications include complications in registering the marriage itself in Lebanon, in registering the newborn children, in divorce procedures thereafter, in inheritance claims and so forth. The complications arise because religious institutions in Lebanon are the only bodies who have the authority to register marriages. The Lebanese President Elias Hrawi's recent call for the reform of civil (family) law in order to introduce civil marriage caused an outrage amongst religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian. Many Lebanese, however, do believe that the President's suggestion provides a practical solution to the case of mixed marriages. Such marriages have been on the increase in Lebanon. President Hrawi said, "It is not normal for civil marriages, after they are registered in Lebanon, to remain regulated by the law of a foreign country (where it was carried out), particularly in matters pertaining to divorce and inheritance".
Stranded Palestinians Allowed Back
The Libyan news agency reported in mid January that the Libyan People's Conference (Parliament), in its meeting on 14th January 1997, called upon Palestinians who have been stranded at the Egyptian border for the past 16 months to return to Libya. A Libyan official was quoted as saying that the decision had been taken after a series of meetings were held to discuss the " Palestinian question". The same source also said, "It is not possible, due to the current circumstances, for the Palestinian people to return to their land, which is occupied by the Zionists". The Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi had decided in September 1995 to expel about 35,000 Palestinians living in Libya to highlight " the failure" of the Oslo Peace Accord which gave self-rule to the Palestinians. The official did not state whether or not the restrictions imposed on Palestinians' residency, right to work, and access to state education and health services would be lifted. This state of uncertainty, coupled with the humiliations suffered by Palestinians residing in Libya even before they were expelled, makes them reluctant to seek refuge in Libya again.
Saudi Arabia: The Palestinian Passport is to be Recognised Soon
Palestinian official sources stated in December that Saudi Arabia will soon proclaim its full recognition of the Palestinian passport. The statement followed a visit by President Yasser Arafat. The source added that Arafat's talks with Saudi officials included safeguarding the jobs of Palestinians working in Saudi Arabia, as well as granting full recognition to the Palestinian passport.
Palestinians intending to go for Umra ( pilgrimage to Mecca outside the pilgrimage season) complained recently that the Saudi Embassy in Amman required that they obtain a proof of residency status in Jordan in order to be granted an entry visa to perform the Umra pilgrimage.
Kuwait: Six Palestinians Released but Unable to Leave
The International Red Cross Committee announced in mid November that six Palestinians who were imprisoned in Kuwait for several years were released but cannot leave the country because they are not in possession of passports. The Palestinians had been serving sentences ranging from two to five years' duration at Talha Centre, 15 km south of Kuwait capital, under the charge of " cooperating with the Iraqis". A bona fide source said "they do not have passports and therefore are not in a position to leave Kuwait. No country will accept them either".
The Palestinian community in Kuwait numbered 400,000 before the Iraqi invasion. Most of them were deported or forced to resign from their jobs because of "the stand taken by the PLO leadership in support of Iraq". Thousands of Palestinians left Kuwait carrying Jordanian passports given to them on a temporary basis by Jordan. Others carried travel documents -mostly Egyptian- which do not give them right of abode in Egypt. Over 200 prisoners, mostly Palestinians, Iraqis, Jordanians and 'Bedoun' (stateless Kuwaiti Bedouins) are serving sentences under the charge of cooperating with the Iraqis.
In a recent statement, Arafat challenged the Kuwaiti government to prove that he sided with the occupation of Kuwait, accusing it of humiliating the Palestinians and of carrying out unjustified mass deportations. Refusing to accept Arafat's version of events, Kuwait failed to take any measure to indicate a change of heart in its hard stand towards the Palestinians.
UAE Bans Marriages To Foreign Women
An official source revealed recently that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is trying to stop its men from marrying non-Arab women in an attempt to protect society from what was seen as "the negative impact brought about by marrying foreigners". Jamal Al-Bah, Director of the Marriage Fund, said that a new law regulating marriages to foreign nationals is to be implemented at the beginning of 1997. The new law will be enforced as soon as it is approved by the Cabinet and the Head of State. He added that the law practically bans marriages to foreign nationals. He said, "We have permitted marriages to citizens of the Gulf States on the grounds of existing bonds of kinship between these states. We have allowed marriages to citizens of other Arab countries if there is a family relationship of the fourth degree. But marriages to other nationals are otherwise not permitted". Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have in recent years imposed similar restrictions on marriages to foreign nationals. Officials in the UAE place the blame for the rise in the divorce rate and the high level of spinsterhood on male marriages to foreign nationals, particularly to Asian women, in order to avoid paying high dowries demanded by UAE women. Foreign nationals constitute 75% of the population of the Emirates , the total population of which is estimated to be 2.4 million.
50 Palestinians killed In the Diaspora In 1996
The recent death of a Palestinian from Bethlehem who was killed in Brazil has led to the reopening of the file on Palestinian migration to the two Americas. Anwar Jamil Zughbi (45) was killed last November after thieves opened fire on him. The victim had emigrated to Brazil at the age of six and had had three children. A substantial number of Palestinians living abroad have been victims of homicide . A survey conducted recently in the Jerusalem area, which includes Ramallah and Bethlehem, revealed that there were more than 50 Palestinians living abroad who fell victim to acts of homicide in 1996.
There are several causes of homicidal acts to which Palestinians fell victim:
In some cases immigrants' lack of knowledge of the living conditions in the country to which they emigrate may be a factor. In other cases they fall victims to crimes of violence in remote or abandoned parts of the larger American cities, where they are forced to work in the black market. Other incidents take place on ethnic grounds, as happens in some countries such as Germany, where foreign nationals, including Palestinians, became victims of violent expressions of racism. Some Palestinians lost their lives due to embroilment in political conflicts in Latin American countries such as Haiti, El-Salvador and Nicaragua.
The researcher also points out that since the beginning of the peace process 12 immigrant families from Bethlehem have returned to the city, while 34 families left the city in 1996 alone, not to mention 7 returnee families who ended up leaving once again.
Holland: Palestinians Whose Asylum Applications Were Refused Have Nowhere To Go
A Dutch lawyer spoke of the suffering endured by a number of Palestinians due to the Dutch authorities' refusal to grant them residency permits. They were asked to leave Dutch territories despite the fact that they had nowhere else to go. Christine Bratt, a lawyer from Amsterdam University, said in a memorandum sent to human rights organisations that the refugees are excluded from the Oslo Agreement. They were deported, or denied the right of abode in the countries they had lived in all their lives.
The memorandum refers to cases of people who worked, for example, for the PLO in Tunisia and are unable to return there. There are Palestinians who were deported from Kuwait following the Gulf War and whom no Arab country would admit. There are Palestinians who left Lebanon during the civil war and were not permitted to return. The Dutch government refused their applications for asylum. This eventually led to deportation orders being issued for their expulsion. Bratt refers to examples that portray the plight of these Palestinians. "In some cases," she said, "the Dutch police would make them board a plane to Tunisia from whence they would be sent back. Then the Dutch police would leave them in the streets of Amsterdam without providing them with any legal papers (to accredit their presence)."
The lawyer adds, "Their legal status in the eyes of the Dutch police is that of deportees who do not exist in Holland. They have, therefore, to find families to host them. They neither have personal identity cards nor any legal papers and, therefore, cannot work or become recipients of the benefits of medical care. They cannot even send their children to schools."
The lawyer intends to take their case to the European Court of Justice and the European Council in order "to show that these Palestinians, who were deported from Arab countries in which they took residence for some time, have nowhere to go . It is not possible to continue to assume that they do not exist. Neither can they be deported to countries which will not take them in."
Benefit Win For Asylum Seekers In U.K. But Detention Remains
The British Government's 18 month battle to withdraw state aid from most asylum seekers ended in defeat in the Appeal Court in mid February after Britain's most senior judges declared that their plight "can and should provoke deep sympathy".
More than 15,000 asylum seekers have been effected by the withdrawal of benefits, which first took effect more than a year ago. Those are mainly from East European countries but some are from the Middle East and Arab region, among those families from Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon.
It has taken four separate court rulings and the enactment of emergency legislation before the Government yesterday abandoned the promise it had made two years ago to wipe out welfare benefit support for 70 per cent of asylum seekers, so as to save about $ 300 million a year.
Reacting to the Appeal Court ruling, Nick Hardwick, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "Once again the judges have drawn the line at leaving people to starve". The Government's policy is in tatters and local authorities have been left to deal with the mess.
On the other hand, the British authorities still uphold their policy to keep asylum seekers in detention. The issue was highlighted recently when some asylum seekers in detention went on hunger strike. This caused much criticism amongst human rights groups, the media, and some politicians. The policy of detention is unfamiliar to other European countries but there is a wide tendency among European Union members to tighten laws concerning asylum seekers.
Palestinian Diaspora & Refugee Centre (Shaml)
The Palestinian Diaspora and Refugee Centre, Shaml, is an independent non-governmental association, dedicated to Palestinian refugees and the Palestinians in the diaspora. It was established in 1994, by a group of concerned academics and human rights activists who felt the need to examine issues pertaining to Palestinian refugees in a broad perspective which takes into consideration relevant experiences in other parts of the world.
Issues addressed by Shaml
It is estimated that there are about four million Palestinians - mainly refugees - currently living in exile throughout the world in varying conditions. The peace process in the Middle East and the emerging Palestinian entity, will have a deep impact on Palestinian refugees and the diaspora. This raises several issues, some of which relate to ensuring the civil and political rights of the refugees, and to monitor and analyse the changes in their conditions in the PNA controlled areas and in the host countries. In addition, the need to sustain strong ties between the Palestinian diaspora and homeland, is becoming more vital for the economic, social and cultural development of the Palestinian people and for preserving its national identity.
The Aims of Shaml
The Activities of Shaml
The Publication Of Shaml Newsletter has been made possible thanks to the support of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Switzerland
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Tel:(972-2)998 7537, Fax: (972-2)998 6598.
(Circle One) By Mail By e-mail Both
Organization $50 $35 $75
Individual $35 $25 $50
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"The Palestinians Displaced in 1967 and the Peace Negotiations" by a group of researchers (Arabic).
No.1 "Civil and Citizenship Rights of Palestinian Refugees" two papers by Abbas Shiblak & Uri Davis (English).
No.2 "Israeli Plans to Resettle the Palestinian Refugees 1948 -1972" by Nur Masalha (English).
No.3 "The Palestinians in Syria, the Demographic, Economic and Social Conditions" by Nabil al-Sahli (Arabic).
No.4 "Israeli Resettlement Schemes for Palestinian Refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967" by Norma Masriyeh Hazboun (English).
No.5 "The Palestinians in Egypt and North Sinai" two papers by Abdul-Qader Yasin, Sari Hanafi & Olivier Saint Martin (Arabic).
No.6 "Reintegration of the Palestinian Returnees" by NichVan-Hear and others (English).
These publications are available ata price of $10each, including postage and handling
Rex Brynen * firstname.lastname@example.org * 23 March 1997