The concept of citizenship has three key elements, namely the right
to individual freedom, the right to political participation and the
right to share fully in the social heritage of the nation (Marshal,
1950, p. 8). To these one may add psychological and cultural
dimensions: the feelings of the individual, feelings of membership,
belonging and loyalty to the nation (Hammar, 1989, p. 85). A people
become a nation when it firmly recognizes certain natural rights
and duties to each other by virtue of shared membership and common
state institutions (Giddens, 1987). So statelessness is the
condition where a people find itself without these institutions,
which ultimately leads to the absence of formal or definite
recognition of its rights and duties. As refugees of a non-state,
Palestinians leave their status to be defined by nations where they
reside, without enjoying any international legal protection.
This study will focus on the socioeconomic and political impact of
statelessness on Palestinians living in refugee camps, with
specific reference to those in Lebanon and Jordan. It draws a
comparison between such an impact on the refugees living in
Lebanon, a host country which is reluctant to accept them, and on
those residing in Jordan, a country which has granted them full
citizenship. It also examines to what extent that citizenship has
been able to satisfy the refugees' political and socioeconomic
The Palestinian refugee issue has been described as one of the main
problems of the Middle East, one which has its roots in the
establishment, in 1948, of the State of Israel on three-quarters of
the land of Palestine, causing the flight of those refugees. Today,
the number of registered refugees and their dependents is around
three million, out of whom one million are still living in camps
(UNRWA, 1993). UNRWA figures show that 10 percent of Palestinian
refugees live in Lebanon and 28 percent in Jordan. However, 18
percent of the total refugee population in Lebanon live in camps,
compared to 13 percent of those living in Jordan (UNRWA,
Palestinian refugees who hold the citizenship of their host country
enjoy better living conditions than those who do not, as
illustrated in the case of the refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.
However, for both groups, indeed for the Palestinian people as a
whole, their political aspirations cannot be satisfied without
citizenship in their own state.
The Legal Status of Palestinian Refugees
The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Resolution
428(v) of December 14, 1950, whereby the statute of the office of
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) became
codified. The main function of the UNHCR is, specifically, to
provide international protection for refugees who fall within the
scope of its statute, and to seek permanent solutions to the
problems of refugees. Although there has been some serious
criticism of the international conventions dealing with the
fundamental rights and freedom of refugees, Palestinian refugees
have been excluded from even such protection. This is due to item
(c) of paragraph 7 of Resolution 428(v) mentioned earlier which
says that the protection of the UNHCR shall not extend to a person
"who continues to receive from other organs or agencies of the
United Nations protection or assistance" (Jaegar, 1988).
Palestinian refugees are currently receiving assistance from the
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which was
established by Resolution 302(v) on December 9, 1949 and which has,
thus, excluded them from international protection. Indeed, UNRWA
was not entrusted with any protection duties in the legal area
(Jaeger, 1988, p. 6), leaving Palestinian refugees under national
It is possible to classify Palestinian refugees into three
categories. The first are those who were registered and were
regarded as legitimate refugees by the states in which they resided
(either in or outside of camps), and live in one of the countries
where UNRWA provides relief (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,
Jordan, Lebanon and Syria). The second are those who reside in
countries where UNRWA operates, but were not registered with UNRWA,
either because they were not in economic need or missed the
deadline to register (FAFO, 1994, p. 24). Finally, there are those
who could not register because they reside in countries where UNRWA
does not operate, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the Gulf
States, Europe, South America, etc. (Samha, 1996, p. 5). The last
two categories, estimated to be 25 percent of the total Palestinian
refugee population, neither receive any assistance from UNRWA, nor
any kind of legal protection from the UNHCR (Jaeger, 1988).
National Protection and Palestinian Refugees in
The total number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is about
350,000, constituting approximately 8-10 percent of the Lebanese
population. As a result, the Lebanese authorities did not want to
disturb the fragile balance of its sectarian political system and
Palestinian refugees were not included in official statements
regulating their presence. This is despite the fact that firm rules
were issued to this effect: Firstly, the Directorate of Palestinian
Refugee Affairs (DPRA) was established and its powers determined.
Secondly, Palestinian refugee camps were established, and thirdly,
a Lebanese security force was set up for these camps (FAFO, 1994,
pp. 24-28). However, none of these regulated the relationship
between the refugees and their host country within a legal
framework determining individual rights and obligations. Although,
in 1969, the Cairo Agreement was signed, defining for the first
time the rights and obligations of Palestinians in Lebanon, the
Lebanese parliament abrogated that agreement on May 21, 1987
(Al-Natour, 1996, p.4).
The residence rights of Palestinians in Lebanon carne under the
Lebanese legislative context (No. 319 of August 2, 1962), whereby
Palestinians were specified as "foreigners not holding documents
from their countries of origin and residing in Lebanon by virtue of
residency cards issued by the Director of the Sureté General."
The granting of identity cards and travel documents, however, was
made conditional on the presentation of UNRWA ration cards
(Al-Natour, 1996, p. 13; FAFO, 1994, p. 79). This excluded a large
number of Palestinians who had not been able to register as
refugees, whose number is estimated to be between fifty and
one-hundred thousand (FAFO, 1994, p. 24). Lebanese legislation
defined as foreigner "any natural or juridical person who is not a
Lebanese subject" (Article I, July 10, 1962). By virtue of their
"foreign" status, Palestinian refugees faced many restrictions.
Lebanese legislation seriously controlled their right to freedom of
movement, both to and from Lebanon and between one camp and another
(Al-Natour, 1996, pp.4-14).
The right of Palestinian refugees to work in Lebanon was similarly
restricted. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs issued a
decision ordering refugees to cease work on grounds they were
competing with the Lebanese work force. In addition, those refugees
who did manage to find employment were not eligible for
end-of-service compensation, in contradiction of the rights to
legitimate residence, favorable treatment and full assimilation of
all refugees with regard to wage-earning employment (Human Rights,
The social, economic and political impact of the absence of
Lebanese protection for Palestinian refugees is illustrated by
Sayigh (1979). Accordingly, refugees suffered from social isolation
and loss of respect, and because they had a "refugee" status and
lived in camps, they were marked as different and placed in a
category similar to that of "gypsy" or "bastard."
On the economic level, refugees worked hard but were badly paid.
The findings in Sayigh's study show that 58.4 percent of employed
camp workers were paid on a daily basis, and only eight percent had
long-term contracts, while only 40 percent of working-age
Palestinian refugees were actually employed. Politically, refugees
were subjected to a policy aimed at putting an end to the
Palestinians' sense of identity and connection with Palestine. Such
oppression, however, did not prevent the spread of Palestinian
consciousness or the growth of political organizations. National
Protection and Palestinian Refugees in Jordan
On December 20, 1949, the Jordanian government passed Law No. 56
which defined the rights of citizenship, duties and obligations of
all Jordanians, including Palestinian refugees. Although the
Jordanian government prohibited the use of the term "refugee" in
political reports, refugees continued to have UNRWA refugee cards
(Pluscov, 1980, p. 43; FAFO, 1994, p. 26). A likely explanation is
that the Jordanian authorities wanted to assure the permanent
economic and general responsibility of the international community
for the refugees from Palestine, while at the same time wanting to
achieve the political integration of the refugees so as to steer
them away from any notions of Palestinian separation (Pluscov,
1980, p. 44).
Although some refugees tried to take advantage of their Jordanian
citizenship, most of them reacted uneasily. This was mainly due to
their concern that new citizenship would contradict and replace
their right of return (Pluscov, 1980, p. 48). Another study showed
that the Jordanian policy fostered discrimination against native
Palestinians which was brought to the surface upon the outbreak of
internal clashes during "Black September" (1970) between native
Jordanians and Palestinians (FAFO, 1984, p. 27). In this
connection, the refugees have expressed their discontent in a
variety of ways. First, the 1952 Ramallah Refugee Congress tended
to ignore the Jordanian option and insisted that all Arab states
formulate a united policy regarding Palestinian refugees. The
conference recommended that "refugee cards" be issued to all
refugees, regardless of their need for relief, and that these serve
as special identity cards expressing the unique status of the
bearer (Pluscov, 1980, p. 49). Other refugee conferences which were
held in 1955, 1956 and 1957, insisted on the separateness and
exclusivity of refugees, so that their political rights would be
safeguarded in the face of any attempt to resolve their
Second, the Palestinian refugees sent petitions and memoranda to
the Arab League, stating their dissatisfaction at being granted
Jordanian citizenship. They also secured the right from their
respective governments to gather each year on November 29 to mark
the anniversary of the foundation of the State of Israel, which to
them symbolized their crisis and continued plight.
Third, the Palestinian refugees rejected their integration into
Jordanian economic projects and agricultural schemes for which the
government had allocated some 22,000 dunums of land and a
$l0-million grant from the UN for individual agricultural projects
for those refugees willing to be self-sufficient in return for
their UNRWA cards. Only 8,000 refugees took up the offer in 1959
(Pluscov, 1980, p. 65; Mezerik, 1980, p. 10). Finally, 50 percent
of the 250,000 camp inhabitants demanded their right to return to
the homeland, rejecting thus any notion of Jordanian citizenship
(Peretz, 1993, p. 51). Overall, the citizenship granted Palestinian
refugees by the Jordanian government could not satisfy their
political aspirations, nor did it foster a sense of loyalty and
belonging to the Jordanian nation.
Evidence shows that the Palestinian refugees, regardless of whether
they have been granted citizenship or whether they have been denied
national protection, have all suffered the consequences of the lack
of international protection. This is true of the refugees living in
Lebanon who have not been given any legal status, or of those who
have been forced to adopt Jordanian citizenship. Even those
refugees who have not received material assistance from UNRWA have
not been given access to any sort of legal protection. It is,
therefore, imperative that Palestinian refugees be granted
international protection until a solution to their problem is
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