Palestinian Refugees and Their Legal Status: Rights, Politics, and Implications for a Just Solution

The Palestinian refugee problem is one of the longest-lasting refugee crises in the world--now exceeding fifty-three years--without a real solution in sight. Although at its core a political problem, the Palestinian refugee crisis is also a problem of legal distortion: Palestinian refugees fall into a legal lacuna that sets them outside minimal international protections available for all other refugee groups in the world. This paper provides background to the legal anomaly that sets Palestinian refugees apart; discusses the legal, practical, and political implications of that status; and proposes a framework and mechanisms aimed at promoting a rights-based solution for the Palestinian refugee problem.

Susan M. Akram is associate professor at Boston University School of Law. This article is based on a forthcoming book, co-authored with Terry Rempel, and from their forthcoming article, "Recommendations for Durable Solutions for Palestinian Refugees: A Challenge to the Oslo Framework," in the Palestine Yearbook of International Law (Kluwer Law Institute with the al-Shaybani Society of International Law, forthcoming 2001 ).