Is There Really a Protection Gap? UNRWA’s Role vis-á-vis Palestinian Refugees

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In recent years, there has been a growing debate about the role United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and/or United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should play in protecting Palestinian refugees. Allegations that Palestinians face a “protection gap” are fed by anachronistic language in UN resolutions, coupled with an antiquated separation of protection and assistance in refugee law. UNRWA operations aimed at protecting the general welfare of Palestinian refugee communities have grown significantly since the 1980s, while the failure of the UN to promote a durable solution for Palestinians is not the result of any formal limitation on UNRWA’s mandate. However, there is a significant protection gap in the area of individual rights protection, which UNRWA and UNHCR should correct.

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28 Refugee Surv. Q. 511 (2009).