When the UN adopted the Refugee Convention and established the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, it excluded those falling within the UNRWA mandate from coverage under UNHCR's mandate. In effect, this has meant that UNHCR does not concern itself with (or count) Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, or the West Bank and Gaza Strip, although the agency assists Palestinian refugees outside the UNRWA-mandate area. Although unintended, the effect has been that Palestinian refugees have enjoyed fewer protections than other refugees because UNRWA only has a mandate to provide Palestinian refugees with humanitarian assistance, and, unlike UNHCR, does not have a specific protection mandate.
Is something being done to rectify this exclusion?
Since the current Palestinian uprising began, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, and some independent refugee experts have argued that the fact that many Palestinian refugees lack effective protection should trigger the applicability of the UN Refugee Convention to Palestinians in the UNRWA mandate area. These organizations and individuals cite Article 1D of the Refugee Convention, which effectively states that whenever protection or assistance for Palestinian refugees has ceased for any reason before their situation is resolved in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions, they shall "be entitled to the benefits of this Convention." Proponents of this view contend that UNHCR should have begun to exercise its protection mandate for Palestinian refugees long ago when it became clear that the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine, which was concerned with protection for Palestinians, was unable to carry out its responsibilities.
Adapted from The Palestinian Dispossession - Frequently Asked Questions
May 15, 2003 By MIFTAH
Badil Resource Center for Refugee Rights
Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding
Shaml - Palestinian Diaspora and Refugee Center
United Nations Relief and Works Agency
U.S. Committee for Refugees