Palestinians in Syria

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Palestinians in Syria
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Damascus, Rif Dimashq, Daraa, Homs, Aleppo, Latakia and Hama governorates
Arabic (Palestinian Arabic, Syrian Arabic)
Majority: Islam
Minority: Christianity

Palestinians in Syria (Arabic: الفلسطينيون في سوريا‎) are people of Palestinian origin, most of whom have been residing in Syria after they were displaced from their homeland during the 1948 Palestinian exodus. Palestinians hold most of the same rights as the Syrian population.[2]


Most Palestinian refugees fled to Syria in 1948 and came from northern Palestine districts, Safad, Haifa, Acre, Tiberias, and Nazareth. Some refugees arrived in Syria via Lebanon, some came from Galilee and the Hula Valley onto the Golan Heights, and others came directly from Palestine to Jordan to Syria. By the summer of 1948, there were about 70,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria, the majority concentrated along the border area with Israel. The refugees were initially housed in deserted military barracks in As-Suwayda, Aleppo, Homs, and Hama. In 1949, Law no. 450 established the Palestine Arab Refugee Institution (PARI), which later was replaced by the General Authority for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR), to manage the Palestinian refugee affairs. GAPAR’s responsibilities were refugee registration, relief assistance, finding employment opportunities for the refugees, and managing funds and contributions intended for them. GAPAR, with UNRWA, jointly administer the camps.[3] Around 526,000 Palestine refugees are registered with UNRWA. There are nine official and three unofficial camps for refugees.In 1967, Palestinian refugees fled the Quneitra Governorate in the Golan Heights, and around 4,200 of them were housed in Daraa Emergency Camp.[3] In 1970, as a result of Black September, some Palestinian refugees fled from Jordan to Syria. In 1982, in the wake of 1982 Lebanon War, a few thousand Palestinian refugees left Lebanon and found shelter in Syria.[3]

The initial influx of Palestinians was substantial (90,000–100,000), and the government, through a series of laws, gradually paved the way for their integration into the Syrian socioeconomic structure while preserving their separate Palestinian identity.[4]

Current trends[edit]

Due to the civil war in Syria that commenced in 2011, many Palestinians in Syria have been displaced, either within Syria, itself or they have fled the country. Their propensity to fleeing includes having been under siege in refugee camps, while many have opted to make the dangerous journey to Europe as conditions remain hostile to Palestinians in neighboring Middle Eastern states.[5] According to UNRWA, more than half a million Palestinians resided in refugee camps in Syria before the war started. It is estimated that at least 125,000 prewar.

According to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, Palestinians who lived in refugee camps in Syria have faced additional obstacles, since they have been made "refugees for the second time". The Geneva-based organization reported that more than 160,000 Palestinian Syrian refugees had left their camps in Syria, migrating to neighboring or countries of the European Union. These include nearly 80,000 refugees who fled to Europe, 57,276 others who fled to neighboring countries, such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, and another 7,000 Palestinian Syrian refugees who fled to Egypt and the Gaza Strip.[6]

A number of Palestinian groups are involved in the fighting alongside the Syrian government. 3,642 Palestinians have died during the seven years of war, 1,651 Palestinians have been detained and more than 300 Palestinians are unaccounted for. Residents of Palestinian camps are suffering from air raids, shelling, siege, and malnutrition. It has been seen in the Damascus- area Yarmouk camp. The president of the United States, Donald J. Trump pulls back funding for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees. According to the spokesperson of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency or UNRWA, Chris Gunness stated that "Palestinians are among those worst affected by the Syrian conflict." He explained that 95 percent of the 438,000 Palestinians are in "critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance. The UNRWA is an agency that works for Palestine refugee and is mostly funded by voluntary contributions. They also receive their funding from the Regular budget of the United Nations. UNRWA was established by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302 IV of 8 December 1949 to carry out relief programs for Palestinian Refugees. Gunness also states "The war in Syria has devastated lives with incalculable cruelty. In this situation, many of the services UNRWA provides are often literally life-saving." Gunness is referring to the clinics, emergency assistance and teaching staff that UNRWA provides. Any pullback in funding has an effect on care for this population. The UNRWA educates 45,000 students a day, without funding this agency would no longer be able to assist students. 54 percent of UNRWA funds go to education, 17 percent goes to health, 16 percent goes to support services, 9 percent goes to relief and social services and 4 percent goes to infrastructure and camp improvement. The Trump administration announced that the United States will indefinitely withhold 65 million dollars of its planned 125 million contributions to the UNRWA. On 2 January 2018, Donald J. Trump wrote "It’s not just Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars for nothing, but also many other countries, and others. As an example, we pay the Palestinians hundred of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue…"


Palestinians in Syria have the right to own more than one business or commercial enterprise as well as the right to lease properties.[7] These rights extend to trade and commerce. Union membership in Syria is also open to Palestinians. Palestinians are free to travel throughout Syria and have the right to establish residence in Syrian villages and cities.[7]

There is, however, a prominent gap in the home and land ownership laws. Unlike Syrian nationals, Palestinians may not own more than one home or purchase arable land. The 1965 Casablanca protocol regarded the treatment of Palestinians living in the Arab States, it consisted of the following regulations (1) Whilst retaining their Palestinian nationality, Palestinians currently residing in the land of ...... have the right of employment on par with its citizens. (2) Palestinians residing at the moment in ...... in accordance with the dictates of their interests have the right to leave and return to this state. (3) Palestinians residing in other Arab states have the right to enter the land of ...... and to depart from it, in accordance with their interests. Their right of entry only gives them the right to stay for the permitted period and for the purpose they entered for, so long as the authorities do not agree to the contrary. (4) Palestinians who are at the moment in ......, as well as those who were residing and left to the Diaspora, are given, upon request, valid travel documents. The concerned authorities must, wherever they be, issue these documents or renew them without delay. (5) Bearers of these travel documents residing in LAS states receive the same treatment as all other LAS state citizens, regarding visa, and residency applications. Salim Salamah is the director of the Palestinian League of Human Rights – Syria argues that "Palestinian refugees in Syria and those who have been doubly displaced to neighboring countries will suffer as a result of the decision. The impact is going to be really massive and tragic, for Palestinians of Syria, its life-saving aid, especially in the context that many Palestinians lack access to many basic services, even [ those who fled] in Lebanon or Jordan. It falls within the long-standing tradition of eroding the existence of Palestinians... and it is tragic".[8]


According to GAPAR data, 85,000 Palestinian refugees settled in Syria by the end of 1948. In 1960 the number became 126,662 and in 1989, the refugee population rose to 296,508. By the end of 1998, the number of refugees was 366,493.[9] In 2011 the UNRWA reported having 526,744 registered refugees. Due to harsh conditions the number of registered refugees has dropped to about 450,000 due to many Palestinians fleeing to Lebanon, Jordan or elsewhere in the region.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "منظمة التحرير: مقتل 990 لاجئا فلسطينيا في سوريا (PLO: the killing of 990 Palestinian refugees in Syria)". زمان الوصل (Zaman Al Wasl) (in Arabic). 22 December 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  2. ^ "MIDDLE EAST: Palestinian refugee numbers/whereabouts". IRIN. 22 June 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "Palestinian refugees in Syria".
  4. ^ Palestinians in Syria: The Politics of Integration Laurie Brand, p. 621-637
  5. ^ "Forgotten and without a future: Syria's Palestinian refugees". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  6. ^ Monitor, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights. "Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor". Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Profiles: Palestinian Refugees in SYRIA". BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. Archived from the original on 11 August 2014. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  8. ^ Strickland, Patrick (25 January 2018). "US UNRWA aid cut to harm Palestinian refugees in Syria". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  9. ^ "The Palestinian Refugees In Syria Their Past, Present and Future" (PDF). 1999.

[1] [2] [3] [4]

  1. ^ Who We Are UNRWA. (n.d.). Retrieved March 2018, from
  2. ^ Nashashibi, S. (2016, 15 October). Morality and hypocrisy over Palestine and Syria. Retrieved March 2018, from
  3. ^ United Nations. (n.d.). Protocol for the Treatment of Palestinians in Arab States ("Casablanca Protocol"). Retrieved March 2018, from
  4. ^ Shafiq, R. (2015). (In)justice and the experience of civilian survivors of armed conflict: case studies from Palestine (Gaza), Iraq and Syria.