Palestinian Refugees in Arab States: A Rights-Based Approach

Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies CARIM Research Report No. 2009/08

68 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2010

Date Written: December 14, 2009


This paper tackles the issue of Palestinian refugees in host Arab states, their legal status and rights. The paper's criteria can be found in those universally accepted standards applicable on refugees, as a special category of persons in need of national and international protection and assistance, and on those minimum guarantees (human rights and freedoms) which are present in international conventions and declarations, applicable in both times of armed conflict/occupation and peace. This paper suggests that those international measures adopted for Palestinian refugees are unsuitable and insufficient over long conflicts and prolonged occupation. It is true that the Palestinian refugee issue is unique. However, it is a legal distortion to understand this uniqueness as a reason to treat Palestinian refugees differently from other refugees as if they stand outside International Refugee Law. The policies of host states and of the international community, this paper suggests, prove that the basic rights and freedoms of individuals take second place in the formulation of national policies and in their legal texts. The exclusion of Palestinians from international protection mechanisms has rendered the position of millions of Palestinians in host Arab states precarious. Besides, in the case of the Palestinians, "refugeehood" is accompanied by statelessness; accordingly, it becomes a source of instability, insecurity and risk, for both the country of first refuge, and third states, which are possible targets of refugee migration. The rights-based approach that this paper adopts underlines the need to take not only the needs of refugees but also their rights seriously into consideration in order to identify certain standards of treatment to which an individual refugee is entitled. Besides, rights imply justiciability, responsibility and accountability.

Suggested Citation

Khalil, Asem, Palestinian Refugees in Arab States: A Rights-Based Approach (December 14, 2009). Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies CARIM Research Report No. 2009/08, Available at SSRN:

Asem Khalil (Contact Author)

Birzeit University ( email )

Birzeit, PA


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