Palestinian Stateless Applicants

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
21 January 2021

Frequently we are instructed on behalf of those who consider themselves to be stateless and in order to assist them we must show that no state is prepared to consider them as a national, under its nationality law.  

When it comes to Palestinian stateless persons, the matters can be very complex. The issue of Palestinian nationality status in the Middle East and the Arab world began in May 1948.  In June 1967 the Gaza Strip was occupied by Israeli Defence Forces during the Six Day War and the Gaza Strip remained under Israeli control until August 2005, when administrative responsibility was handed over to the Palestinian National Authority, and the strip itself was administratively isolated from Israel, (which nevertheless retained control of its borders with Egypt and Israel). 

The citizenship and residence status of Palestinians today is extremely complicated and depends on their place of residence on the occasions of major events in the Middle East.  After the creation of the State of Israel, the original population living within mandated Palestine were scattered and those remaining under Israeli control became citizens of Israel under the Citizenship Law of 1952, although there were some special provisions that excluded many who otherwise could have been entitled to citizenship.  They were granted citizenship later on by amendments to the law passed in 1980. The same status does not apply to Palestinians permanently resident in the Gaza Strip or in the West Bank or in the Palestinians wider disaper.  Their status for many years was the one granted to them by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA). After 1950 those in the West Bank were treated as Jordanian nationals but this ended in 1988 when King Hussein abandoned Jordan’s sovereign claim over the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  In the Gaza Strip even though Egyptian administration of the region existed, it did not mean that residents there acquired Egyptian nationality.  Many Palestinians obtained naturalisation and citizenship in the countries in which they settled outside the Middle East and North Africa.  However, this is not the case for Palestinians in the Arab world.  The Arab State did not want to undermine the Palestinian’s refugee status for political reasons and thus would not normally give them citizenship.  However, Palestinians were given the same rights to work as nationals of a particular Arab State in which they resided and the right to live and return to that State, although in the case of Egypt a re-entry visa to do so was required.  

The Palestinians who live in the Gulf countries are now facing increasing intolerance to the domestic politics of the Palestinian movements and residence visas in the UAE usually expire after three years and might be renewed only in person. 

Since Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation signed the Oslo Accords, and subsequent agreements which led to the setting up of the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank citizens are able to depart legally from occupied territories temporarily if they obtain permits from the Israeli authorities.