Double displacement: Palestinian refugees from Syria
The refugee crisis has dominated news headlines in recent
months. Thousands of refugees have fled the borders of their home countries in hope
of reaching safety elsewhere, yet we have only just come to know the full
extent of the crisis. Details are emerging of the truly harrowing journeys that
refugees have made to reach Europe, and the UN has now warned that its
humanitarian agencies are close to bankruptcy due to the sheer scale of this
Though Europe is slowly turning its head towards the crisis,
it had been trivialised up until now, with people’s identities
lost in the media’s portrayal of the crisis.
What some people may not know is that many of the
rescued passengers aboard incoming boats are also Palestinians from Syria. A large number have drowned trying to reach Europe while hundreds are thought to be missing at sea.
For many Palestinian-Syrians now seeking refuge, their experience of fleeing from horrifying levels of violence is nothing new. The Nakba in 1948 saw over 750,000
Palestinians expelled from their homeland.
Around 560,000 sought refuge in Syria and were given shelter in camps such as the vastly populated Yarmouk Camp in Damascus. The Naksa in 1967 saw a further 300,000 Palestinians fleeing to safety, with thousands more taking refuge in the Syrian camps.
And now Palestinians from Syria have become ‘double refugees’ – forced
to flee once again. The struggle to resettle in a new country is a distressing reminder of their status as a displaced nation.
Palestinians living in refugee camps across the Middle East have been joined by thousands of families fleeing violence who had perhaps never imagined they would be there. Marginalised for their refugee status, and denied citizenship rights, the crisis does not end with relocation, and harsher times are expected ahead for the refugees.
For the majority of the 180,000 Palestinians remaining in Syria, unable to escape from the areas where conflict is still rife, they are forced to deal with outbreaks of typhoid and are entirely reliant on humanitarian aid to meet their daily needs. The decision of whether to remain in Syria or flee to Europe is one where neither outcome can guarantee their safety. Every day brings uncertainty.