UNRWA protection activities aim to respond to the protection needs of Palestine refugees amidst increasing conflict and displacement in the region. The Syrian conflict has displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestine refugees, including tens of thousands to Jordan and Lebanon, while Gaza has seen three rounds of hostilities in seven years. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, including the Israeli blockade and recurrent hostilities in Gaza, has serious and on-going consequences for the enjoyment of the rights of Palestine refugees. For a wide range of reasons, Palestine refugees do not enjoy basic human rights, and the vulnerability of women and children to violence and abuse is also increasing.
In recent years, UNRWA has significantly strengthened its capacity to provide protection to Palestine refugees through various initiatives, including protection trainings for staff, dedicated protection activities to ensure focus on the most vulnerable, and the introduction of protection staff both at the headquarters level and in all field offices. As part of the protection framework, the Agency adopted a protection policy in 2012 and has developed tools and standards for service delivery. Progress is measured through annual internal protection audits. UNRWA has an extensive programme on the prevention and response to gender-based violence (GBV) and has developed a child protection framework.
UNRWA has a mandate to undertake a broad range of activities for the protection of Palestine refugees in our fields of operation. The UN General Assembly acknowledges the protection mandate of UNRWA by recognizing in its resolutions “the valuable work done by the Agency in providing protection to the Palestinian people, in particular Palestine refugees.” The Agency’s protection mandate specifically addresses the rights of vulnerable groups – women, children and persons with disabilities – and the General Assembly has encouraged UNRWA to further address their needs and rights in its operations in accordance with relevant international instruments including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The importance of protection to Palestine refugees is translated into action through Strategic Outcome 1 of UNRWA’s Medium Term Strategy for 2016-2021, which requires the Agency to work to ensure “Refugees’ rights under international law are protected and promoted”. The Medium Term Strategy provides:
UNRWA applies a holistic approach to protection. This includes an ‘internal’ dimension, focusing on realizing the rights of Palestine refugees in and through the Agency’s service delivery programmes, and an ‘external’ dimension involving engagement with relevant duty bearers to ensure respect for Palestine refugee rights. These dimensions, however, are not mutually exclusive.
There are four complementary elements to the Agency’s protection approach:
In Gaza, home to 1.3 million Palestine refugees, repeated hostilities in recent years have had a devastating impact, with unprecedented levels of destruction of physical infrastructure, loss of human life, displacement and dramatic deterioration of the social fabric. The pace and scale of reconstruction remain extremely slow.
Moreover, the Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza, which the UN considers illegal under international law, restricts the freedom of movement of people and goods, crippling the economy. Gaza is becoming increasingly unliveable with limited entry and exit into...Read more
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, where approximately 800,000 Palestine refugees live, protection challenges resulting from the Israeli military occupation include the use of force by security officials, military incursions into refugee camps, detentions, settlement expansion, restrictions on movement, forced displacement, demolitions of homes, land grabs and settler violence. A sharp rise in the number of Palestinians, including refugees, killed and injured during operations carried out by the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) in the West Bank, in and around refugee camps, has been...Read more
In Syria, the conflict that started in 2011, has had a devastating impact on more than 540,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in the country. Over 120,000 have fled Syria and are facing new vulnerabilities in the receiving countries, with many living in constant fear of arrest and deportation back to Syria. Tight restrictions on the entry of Palestine refugees to neighbouring countries have pushed thousands to risk their lives seeking protection beyond the region.
More than half of all Palestine refugees remaining in Syria have been displaced internally – many multiple...Read more
In Lebanon, over 500,000 Palestine refugees are registered with UNRWA, with between 260,000 to 280,000 actually currently residing in Lebanon, many of whom are excluded from key facets of social, political and economic life. Palestine refugees face legal restrictions that limit their rights, including the prohibition to work in 36 professions and to own property, and they have reduced access to state-provided services such as health and education.
Some 42,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) are currently recorded by UNRWA in Lebanon. Since August 2013, the access to Lebanese...Read more
In Jordan, 2.2 million Palestine refugees enjoy broad inclusion in social and economic life. The vast majority have Jordanian nationality, with the exception of some 158,000 ‘ex-Gazan’ refugees – Palestinians who fled from Gaza to Jordan in the aftermath of the June 1967 hostilities. The majority of these ex-Gazans were originally displaced in 1948. Several legal restrictions limit their rights and contribute to their vulnerable living conditions.
Jordan also hosts over 16,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) who are being assisted by UNRWA, but many of them also face several...Read more