A Political Demography of the Refugee Question. Palestinians in Jordan and Lebanon: Between protection, forced return and resettlement
Title: A Political Demography of the Refugee Question. Palestinians in Jordan and Lebanon: Between protection, forced return and resettlement
Author: DE BEL-AIR, Françoise
Series/Report no.: Migration Policy Centre; CARIM-South Research Report; 2012/02
External link: http://www.migrationpolicycentre.eu/
Refugees from Palestine are one of the oldest refugee populations in the world. And UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which anchors Palestinian refugees’ claims for their right of return to Palestine, is now 63 years old. Yet, in Jordan and Lebanon, the refugees’ main host countries, the Palestinian presence grew in importance in domestic politics through the 2000s. In Lebanon there were the political debates surrounding the granting of some civil rights to Palestinian refugees, which culminated mid-2010. In Jordan, controversies over political naturalisation stir up violent political debates. This essay explores the reasons behind the fact that, in Jordan and Lebanon, granting civil rights to refugees raises a lot of concern. It also examines how the civil rights issue cannot be separated from that of the protection of the Palestinian “cause”, the right of return. More generally, the report investigates the various perceived challenges and the outreach of Palestinian refugees’ settlement (tawtin) in each of the two countries, before and after the late 1980s-early 1990s. Return and resettlement were taken as the two extremes of a similar demographic policy, and therefore, proved to be powerful political tools for regimes and political actors, at the local, regional and international levels. The theoretical framework of political demography and the “political economy” of Palestinian refugee trends and policies in Jordan and Lebanon also allowed for the Palestinian issue to be resituated in the history and the socio-political context of each country; thus revealing their specific challenges. The essay shows that the granting of civil rights to Palestinians is hampered by its politically-destabilising significance in host countries, where civil rights are constructed as citizenship-bound privileges. Therefore, debates on Palestinian refugees flag up deepening rifts within Jordanian and Lebanese citizenries, and diverging views on political “imagined communities” (Anderson, 1991). In Jordan, such a rift has been deepened by the recent emergence of nationalist movements and by the tensions which emerged in the wake of the Arab uprisings. Representations of national populations as closed, de jure and ethnic-based increasingly oppose views of nationhood as open, de facto and assimilationist.
CARIM-South is co-financed by the European University Institute and the European Union.
Type of Access: openAccess