oPt + 5 more

OPT: 7.5 million Palestinian refugees and IDPs

News and Press Release
Originally published
At the end of 2006, the Palestinian population worldwide was estimated to be over 10.1 million. 70% of them (nearly 7.5 million) were refugees and internally displaced persons. Six million Palestinians have been refugees since 1948, and approximately one million since 1967. Approximately 450,000 Palestinians are internally displaced persons in Israel and the OPT, while the legal status of some 400,000 additional Palestinians is unclear. The majority of the latter have likely been forcibly displaced from or within the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967 as a result of Israeli policies. More than two thirds of the Palestinian refugees live in exile, in particular in Arab countries surrounding Palestine (Jordan, Syria and Lebanon), and approximately 20% of them live in UNRWA-serviced refugee camps.

These data are released on World Refugee Day by BADIL Resource Center based on systematic review and analysis of available sources, including the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). Since 1948, no agency has comprehensively registered displaced Palestinians. However, data provided are considered the best estimates as indicative figures.

As the largest and longest unresolved refugee case in the world approaches its 60th year, Badil calls upon all parties to the conflict to adopt a rights-based approach to the search for durable solutions. In particular, Badil calls upon Israel, the United States and the European Union to recognize the rights of Palestinian refugees and IDPs to return to their homes of origin, property restitution and compensation for losses and damages incurred.

Since 1948, negotiations over the Palestinian refugee issue have failed to put international law at the center of the search for durable solutions. So-called "practical and realistic" solutions based on the unequal balance of power between the parties has instead been the chosen framework, leaving little space for respect for the rights of refugees and IDPs. Addressing and resolving the issue of Palestinian refugees and IDPs in accordance with international law is, however, central to building a just and lasting peace.

The lack of a rights-based approach has left Palestinian refugees and IDPs particularly vulnerable to renewed displacement and has created a climate of impunity. In the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) and Israel, displacement of Palestinians continues as a result of Israel's quest for control over a maximum amount of land with a minimum number of Palestinian people. The lack of effective protection leaves Palestinian refugees vulnerable to discrimination, persecution and renewed forced displacement also in their current host countries. In Iraq, for instance, many are stranded on border areas or live without access to protection. Thousands more have been displaced during Israel's war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006 and the current conflict in the Nahr el Bared camp.

Despite ongoing displacement, no national and international response has been developed to prevent, protect from and respond to the forced displacement of Palestinians. Badil believes that international organizations, in particular the United Nations, need to urgently develop a response to the ongoing forced displacement of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel's government and officials responsible for population transfers (ethnic cleansing) must be held accountable.