The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) hosted a meeting yesterday, 20th June 2011. The meeting was called during a week of activities by PRC beginning on World Refugee Day.
The main focus was the plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon following PRC/CEPR parliamentary delegation to the country last February.The event provided an opportunity to share the experiences of the parliamentary delegation to Lebanon. It was chaired by Sir Gerald Kaufman MP and hosted by Jeremy Corbyn MP. Other speakers include Baroness Jenny Tonge; Dr.Dawn Chatty, Deputy Director of the Refugee Studies Centre Oxford University, Nadim Shehadeh, Associate Fellow of the Middle East Program at Chatham House, General Director of PRC, Majed al Zeer and Mr. Nasim Ahmed PRC senior researcher. Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, after congratulating PRC for organizing the delegation, spoke about the suffering of Palestinian Refugees and what he experienced during his visit. Sir Kaufman added that the Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon are living in horrendous and inhumane conditions, more terrible than those in the Gaza Strip.Jeremy Corbyn MP, who had visited numerous camps, spoke of his anger over the grim conditions faced by Palestinian refugees. He noted how refugees cannot move freely, which restricts their chances and opportunities in life. He further commented on the impasse in the refugee crises which has lead to a generation of lost talent and ingenuity. ‘The restrictions on Palestinian doctors, engineers, teachers and artists are a loss to the individual, to the community and ultimately a loss to us all of greater positive human potential’ he said. Baroness Jenny Tonge described her experience of the camps she visited and spoke about her dream that refugees will themselves, implements their right to return peacefully. The Palestinian refugees communities she said, should move with the Arab spring and demand this right through peaceful demonstration. She vented on the discriminatory law of return which allows all Jews to return to Israel but denies this right to the Palestinians. Mr. Al Zeer, Director of PRC, discussed the work of PRC and how parliamentary delegations have been a key component of PRC’s work over the years. ‘Delegations provide direct access and opportunity to see the purity of the plight of refugees. They offer an opportunity to see many different challenges faced by Palestinian refugee communities around the world’, he said.Dr. Chatty, contextualized the global Palestinian refugee population and spoke about the gap in their protection citing the unfruitful mandate of UNCCP which was specifically tasked with protecting the property of Palestinian refugees. Nadim Shahada expressed his opinion about the need to move away from the narrative of victimhood because the rights of Palestinian, and any other people for that matter, exist irrespective of their victim status. Mr. Nasim Ahmed provided some thoughts on the current political situation stating that, ‘facts on the ground may have changed but universal facts still remain true. Netanyahu and his government must realize a historical fact that assailing against the natural law of peace does not lead to peace. Conditions of lasting, sustainable peace are always predicated on human rights and justice and no amount of rhetoric and military might can change that universal fact’.