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 demands.
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, 1993).
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 protection only.
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 Lebanon

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, 1993, pp.40-41).
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 plight.
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 reached.


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Jaeger, G. (1988). "Notes on the Protection of Palestinians and of Refugees from Palestine." United Nations Documents, 19443, para. 28, January 21.
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