Doc. 9588

14 October 2002

The status of Palestinian refugees and stateless persons in Europe

Motion for a recommendation

presented by Mrs Vermot-Mangold and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

1.       The scope and urgency of the situation of Palestinian refugees and stateless persons in Europe requires the Council of Europe to undertake serious discussion of this issue. According to authoritative sources, one in three refugees worldwide is Palestinian. In fact, due to the escalating nature of the crisis in Israel/Palestine, more and more Palestinians are likely to come to Europe as refugees or entrants with various kinds of immigration status.

2.       At the same time, there appears to be great confusion and conflicting interpretations within and among European states about the status of Palestinian refugees in Europe. Moreover, in contrast to the usual framework applied by European states in the search for durable solutions for refugees, there are conflicting approaches to the framework for a durable solution for Palestinian refugees. Among the immediate unresolved, but critical, questions are whether Palestinians are entitled to international protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention, the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, or the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

3.       In addition, to date, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and related UN agencies and organs have applied differing and often inconsistent interpretations of whether Palestinian refugees are refugees or stateless persons under the meaning of the above instruments, and what protections or benefits they are entitled to receive.

4.       The result of these differing interpretations of the status of Palestinian refugees and stateless persons is that they have been overwhelmingly placed outside the international protection system afforded by these instruments, and by the agencies responsible for implementation of refugee/stateless person protections. Thus, while Palestinian refugees find themselves in a deplorable situation within the Arab states, and in a devastating situation in the West Bank and Gaza, they are not assured the minimal protections available to other refugees seeking protection in Europe. This remains true at a time when there appears to be no durable solution in the foreseeable future for the plight of Palestinian refugees through any political processes. Palestinians will thus continue to be among the most vulnerable of refugee populations, and will require coordinated efforts to ensure that they receive international protection until their situation is resolved in accordance with international law.

5.       Unfortunately, the issue of the status of Palestinians as refugees or stateless persons, the extent to which their rights are governed by the above instruments, and the framework for durable solutions, has become highly politicized. It has thus been extremely difficult to address this issue within the usual legal and humanitarian framework usually applied to refugee issues in Europe.

6.       Therefore, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

      i.       promote the necessary initiatives to survey existing consultative and legal bodies to obtain hard data on definitions, status and numbers of Palestinian refugees in the EC states;

      ii.       organise a European-wide symposium to address the legal status and situation of Palestinian refugees and stateless persons in Europe;

      iii.       invite all relevant UN, EC state and regional bodies to discuss and coordinate their approach to the status of Palestinian refugees and stateless persons, as well as the framework for durable solutions to their present situation;

      iv.       convene such discussions with the focus of ensuring that Palestinian refugees and stateless persons receive the maximum international protection available under the relevant international instruments until their situation is resolved in accordance with international law.

Signed : 1

Vermot-Mangold, Switzerland, SOC

Dokle, Albania, SOC

Evin, France, SOC

Hancock, United Kingdom, LDR

Ilaşcu, Romania, NR

Judd, United Kingdom, SOC

Lörcher, Germany, SOC

Onur, Germany, SOC

Stoisits, Austria, SOC

Wray, United Kingdom, SOC

Zwerver, Netherlands, SOC

1        SOC: Socialist Group

      EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party

      EDG: European Democratic Group

      LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group

      UEL: Group of the Unified European Left

      NR: not registered in a group