On 21/5/2015, al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations held in its headquarters in Beirut a panel discussion on the Future of Palestinian Refugees in Syria. The event was attended by a group of experts on the Palestinian issue.
The panel discussion was moderated by al-Zaytouna’s General Manager Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh. The session overviewed the situation of the Palestinian refugees in Syria, and the killing, dispossession, detention, and suffering that has affected them during the conflict in Syria. According to the information cited, until 2015, out of 550 thousand Palestinian refugees who were residing in Syria, around 270 thousand are now internally displaced, more than 100 thousand are externally displaced, and more than two thousand have been killed, in addition to hundreds detained and missing. Meanwhile, a large number of the 15 Palestinian refugee camps in Syria have turned into battlefields, leading to their total or partial destruction and the displacement of their residents.
The interventions made by the participants stressed the need for Palestinian factions and refugees in Syria to pursue a neutrality policy, in order to reduce the impact of the incidents on the refugees. They also stressed the need to have a unified Palestinian reference frame that has a unified political vision to address the refugee issue there, and work to protect them and keep them away from the conflict.
On the subject of forecasting the future of the refugees in Syria both in the event the crisis continues and in the event a resolution is reached, a number of possible scenarios were discussed.
The first scenario would be for developments to lead to some kind of arrangement in Syria as part of an international-backed settlement between the regime and the opposition, with no side declared a victor. Such a scenario could preserve the Syrian state, but the effects of the war that has torn the social and economic fabric will leave the central government weaker. This government will be preoccupied with solving internal problems, a situation that carries the seeds of a conflagration within it, and would bring further instability for Palestinian refugees in the country.
The second scenario would see the Syrian state fragmenting, creating vulnerable mini-states along sectarian and ethnic lines. This raises questions for the future of Palestinian refugee presence in these states, and redefining them as Sunni or Arabs and forcing them to relocate on that basis. Any of these two scenarios above will cost the Palestinian people and the Palestinian issue dearly.
This leaves the scenario where unity is promoted above the sectarian and ethnic dimensions. This scenario would see a strong proposal made towards inclusiveness of all parties, expressing the will of the peoples of the region away from local dictatorships or foreign intervention. This would give the Palestinian issue the chance to have a new beginning that would rally the nation and unify its sense of direction towards Palestine.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 26/5/2015