Palestinian Refugees: Multiple Displacements and the Issue of Protection ( Issue No.59, March 2017)

Palestinian Refugees: Multiple Displacements and the Issue of Protection ( Issue No.59, March 2017)
This issue discusses the multiple displacements of Palestinian refugees from the perspective of the international response or lack thereof. The articles examine the asylum procedures of a number of countries spanning Europe and the Americas.

Specifically, this issue contains articles highlighting the situation of Palestinian refugees from Syria seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Greece, and across Europe.. This is a follow-up to al-Majdal No. 56 and 57 that focused on Palestinian refugees from Syria in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and inside Syria itself and analyzed the situation of these refugees in Europe.

The articles provide an overview of decades-old Palestinian communities in the Americas and those who arrived in the last two decades, particularly focusing in Latin America, which is host to the largest number of Palestinians outside the Arab world. The positions of different governments vis-à-vis these Palestinian communities are examined.  Additionally, the article about Brazil follows the evolution not only of the Palestinian community there, but also of Brazilian solidarity movements with the Palestinian people.

Al-Majdal No. 59 brings back to the fore the long-neglected issue of the protection gap of Palestinian refugees across a wide range of geographical perspectives.

Editorial: Palestinian Refugees: Multiple Displacements and the Issue of Protection

This issue of al-Majdal is looking specifically at the multiple displacements of Palestinian refugees from the perspective of the international response or lack thereof to this situation. The articles examine the asylum procedures of a number of countries, spanning Europe and the Americas. Specifically, this issue contains articles highlighting the situation of Palestinian refugees from Syria seeking asylum in the United Kingdom (UK), France, Germany and Greece, and in Europe more generally. Looking at the Americas, the articles provide an overview of Palestinian communities there, especially Brazil and Cuba, as well as the situation of more recent Palestinian refugees arriving to the Americas in the last two decades.

Palestinian Refugees from Syria in Europe: An Overview

by Naomi M. R. Graham*

Overall Context 

While the exact number of Palestinians granted asylum in Europe is unknown,1 from the beginning of the refugee flow from Syria towards Europe, Palestinian refugees from Syria have not received the international protection they are entitled to. In great part, this is due to the lack of effective implementation of an emergency response to the mass influx of refugees that fled to Europe, especially to Greece. The response of European countries and the mechanisms adopted to deal with the refugee issue were not only insufficient to handle the large number of asylum seekers, but also discriminatory against Palestinian refugees from Syria. This discrimination does not always start when refugees or asylum seekers arrive to a safe country, but often on the way there. 

Palestinian Refugees in Greece

by Karima Abdel Aziz* and Maya al-Orzza**


Due to its geographical location, Greece was the first European Union (EU) member state that many refugees fleeing Syria reached. Its proximity to Syria and also to Lebanon and Turkey - two of the main receiving countries of refugees from Syria - by land and sea resulted in a mass influx of refugees into Greece. Along with thousands of Syrians, a high number of Palestinian refugees from Syria ended up in Greece.1 The exact number of refugees from Syria that have entered Greece is difficult to assess accurately, as most of them did not claim asylum in Greece. Some were unable to do so due to the overload of refugees and the inaccessibility of the asylum system, while others preferred to continue to other EU countries and claim asylum there.2

Palestinian Refugees from Syria in the UK

Photo: Protesters urge the British government to do more to help Syrian refugees during a protest in Parliament Square, London, July 2015. (Frank Augstein/AP)

by Lana Ramadan*

As in other European countries, the UK responded to the Syrian crisis by giving humanitarian aid and setting up a resettlement scheme for Syrians. However, the UK excluded Palestinian refugees from Syria from the resettlement scheme and did not provide them with the same treatment as Syrian nationals. Instead, Palestinian refugees from Syria seeking asylum in the UK go through the asylum application process just like any other Palestinian seeking asylum from countries other than Syria. This article will highlight the UK’s asylum and resettlement frameworks, explain its policies in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, and show how Palestinian refugees from Syria are not receiving equal protection in the UK. 

Palestinian Refugees in Germany

Photo: Protesters from the far-right PEGIDA movement (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) march during a rally in Leipzig to protest at the increasing numbers of refugees entering Germany. January 2016 (Source:

by Karima Abdel Aziz

The Palestinian refugee problem is seen as the world’s most interminable case of displacement.[1] The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) defines Palestine refugees as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” 

Palestinian Refugees in France

Photo: Refugees from Syria pass under a highway security fence as they try to find a new way to enter Hungary after Hungarian police sealed the border with Serbia near the village of Horgos, Serbia, September 2015. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

by Lisa Auer*

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, France has welcomed more than 10,000 Syrian refugees and Palestinian refugees from Syria from the over five million people who fled the conflict. Four thousand five hundred were granted refugee status in accordance with the 1951 Geneva Convention, while the rest received subsidiary protection (protection subsidiaire). Subsidiary protection is a special asylum regime granted, after examination of the request, to all people who cannot enjoy refugee status but face in their country of origin serious risks of death penalty, torture or ill-treatments, or grave, direct and individual threat to life because of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or non-international armed conflict.[1]

IN FOCUS: Palestinians in the Americas - Lands of Opportunities Untapped?

Photo: Demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinian people outside the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile (Source:

by Francesca Albanese* and Elisa Mosler Vidal**

In 2008, Condoleezza Rice proposed solving the Palestinian refugee question by sending Palestinian refugees from the Middle East to Latin America.[1] Rice put forward the idea at a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators discussing the fate of the estimated five million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. Given that Chile and Argentina are fairly sparsely populated and have large Arab, including Palestinian, diaspora communities, Rice suggested these countries and possibly others in Latin America could contribute to the refugees by giving up land.[2]

The Story of the Palestinian Diaspora and their Alliance with Social Movements in Sao Paulo

“Sanaúd! Voltaremos![1] and We will Return!”

by Luciana Garcia de Oliveira*

Once, in a testimony, Mr. Hannah Youssef Safieh, a Palestinian who lives in the city of Natal (in northeast Brazil), recalled an interview he gave to a French magazine in 1968 when he was in Belgium for a large event in solidarity with Palestine. When asked about whether Palestinians had a slogan akin to the legendary Jewish phrase “Next year to Jerusalem,” he replied: "Of course we have: Sanaúd! (We will return!)” This traditional expression of the Palestinian diaspora reveals the desire to return to the place from which they were displaced, their homeland. It was exactly this same expression that in 1982 became the title of one of the largest political organizations of the second generation of Palestinians in Brazil, the Cultural Association Sanaúd. Sanaúd was formed by a group of young people from the Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian Diasporas; residents in Brazil who often met in an office named "Sociedade Árabe Palestina" located at Avenida Senador Queiróz in Sao Paulo.

Palestinians in Cuba

By Mohammad Abu Srour*

During the first half of the twentieth century Cuba was a prosperous country and had a vibrant economy that attracted immigration from many countries around the world, including Palestine. Immigration and emigration in Cuba significantly affected the demographic composition of the island, including that of the Palestinian community.