Feb. 9, 2017
As a followup to my post about UNRWA and defining refugees, it looks like the reality is a bit simpler than I thought.
I asked an international legal scholar about UNRWA’s definition of refugees, and he responded simply “There is only one treaty that defines refugees – the 1951 convention.”
Reading the Refugee Convention more carefully, this is in fact the case. It doesn’t say that Palestinians are or aren’t refugees; it merely says that they are not eligible for protection under the Refugee Convention because UNRWA already existed. Their refugee status is simply not addressed in the Convention – because there is only one definition.
Any person who…owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
The first article of the Convention then lists people for whom the Convention doesn’t apply…