Temporary Protection and its Applicability to the Palestinian Refugee Case

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BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights




Temporary protection is widely regarded as an international legal norm that is now obligatory on states in certain circumstances with regard to their treatment of refugees, or persons fleeing “refugee-like” situations.(1) As a recognized status, it is the most recent of the three major possibilities for protection of refugees which a state can offer - the other two being the now-universal obligation of non-refoulement (“non-return”) and the non-obligatory protection of political asylum.

Temporary protection has special significance to the Palestinian refugee case. Since all states examining the issue, as well as the relevant United Nations bodies, universally interpret the international legal refugee regime as excluding Palestinian refugees from its coverage, for the last 50 years Palestinian refugees have essentially been denied minimal international legal protections available to all other refugees. This has had grave implications both for Palestinians within the occupied Palestinian territories and in the diaspora, the latter including those within the Arab states and elsewhere in the world. The implications of this legal interpretation have become even more stark in the post-Oslo era, when a final status agreement - negotiated in an atmosphere of extreme power imbalance between the two main parties at the negotiating table - appears likely to further compromise Palestinian refugee rights and protections.

It is in the post-Oslo framework that temporary protection appears to be a particularly attractive option for both diaspora Palestinians who lack third-state citizenship, and Palestinian refugees who either remain in Arab states or wish to live in a future WestBank/Gaza Palestinian state. Temporary protection would offer diaspora Palestinians the protection rights they currently lack, with all the concomitant rights of an individual granted asylum, but without the permanent status accompanying resettlement that might compromise their right to repatriate to their places of origin. Temporary protection within the future Palestinian state would offer protection to Palestinian refugees living it its territory based on a distinct legal status (which differs from the status of non-refugee citizens) until such time as they can return to their original homes and lands within the pre-1948 boundaries of the Israeli state. Finally, the status of temporary protection with the expectation of repatriation to place of origin is fully consistent with principles of international law on the right of return, as well as principles governing the design and implementation of durable solutions for refugees in general and Palestinian refugees in particular.

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