Why Does UN Have Two Distinct Groups of Refugees, One for Palestinians and for Everyone Else?

September 25, 2013

Huffington Post blogger Diane Bederman tackles the issue of refugees in her latest blog, revealing a double standard in the treatment and definition of refugees worldwide. As Bederman’s commentary points out,  with 43 million refugees worldwide, why does the UN have two distinct groups of refugees, one for Palestinians and and one for everyone else? According to Bederman:

“There are currently 43-million uprooted victims of conflict and persecution worldwide. There are two distinct groups of refugees and service providers: The UNHCR overseeing 10.4-million refugees worldwide; and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) caring for 4.8-million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the “occupied” Palestinian territory. In 2005 UNRWA had a staff of 24,300, and $339 million to support 4.1-million Palestinian refugees in just five territories (or $83 per refugee), while UNHCR, with a staff of 6,450 had $992 million to support 19.2-million refugees and asylum seekers in 116 countries (or $52 per refugee).

UNHCR defines a refugee as someone who’s fled his or her country “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” They face loss of their home, livelihood and community. You are a refugee for one generation after which time you lose refugee status.

The definition of “refugee” for Palestinians is significantly different because it includes descendants of Palestinian refugee males, including legally adopted children. Numbers are declining under UNHCR (people assimilate and the numbers go down) whereas in UNRWA there’s an inflation: between 5-6 million.”

Indeed, one must ask why Palestinian refugees are defined differently than any other nationality worldwide and why they benefit from a special agency with much higher aid.

Read the whole article here.


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