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During the civil war in Syria, that started in 2011, around five millions of Syrians have fled the country and have been accepted as refugees by Turkey, Germany, Sweden, Jordan, and many other countries.

In contrast, during the current war in Gaza, it seems no country wants to accept Gazan refugees.

Why were Syrian refugees more easily accepted in other countries than Gazan refugees now?

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    I think "accepted" should be put in scare quotes. The countries that accepted the Syrian refugees did so because they were legally obliged to and tried as hard as they could to reduce the number of refugees or to get them to move to another country. Furthermore, it is believed that Israel will not allow refugees from Gaza to return so they will become a permanent "nuisance" in their host countries rather than a temporary one. Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 3:15
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    Frame challenge - the wave of refugees landing in Europe was precipitated by Syrian crisis, but Syrians did not actually dominate it. It contained people coming from Afghanistan and other countries in the region as well, AFAIR.
    – alamar
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 12:28
  • Also related: politics.stackexchange.com/q/82259/12027
    – Machavity
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 14:26
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    Does that 'wanted' actually mean 'welcome' or what? Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 20:34

5 Answers 5

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There are already plenty of Palestinian refugees in Arab countries, notably in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan - see Palestinian refugee camps:

Camps are set up by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to accommodate Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA, who fled or were expelled during the 1948 Palestinian expulsion and flight after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War or in the aftermath of the Six-Day War in 1967, and their patrilineal descendants. There are 68 Palestinian refugee camps, 58 official and 10 unofficial, ten of which were established after the Six-Day War while the others were established in 1948 to 1950s.

The situation is complicated by the fact that the Palestinians living in many of these countries (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan) refugee camps for generations have no legal path to integration into the local society - they are not eligible for citizenship (even if born in the country), cannot own business, reside outside of the designated refugee camp, etc. Many people are thus qualified as refugees, because they are children or grandchildren of displaced persons:

UNRWA's mandate is to provide assistance to Palestinian refugees, including access to its refugee camps. For this purpose, it defines Palestinian refugees as "persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict."

UNRWA also extends assistance to the patrilineal descendants of such refugees, as well as their legally adopted children.

The reasons for the unwillingness of the host countries to integrate these refugees are complex - e.g., in Jordan Palestinians with Jordanian citizenship (not refugees, but historical inhabitants of this area) constitute nearly the half of the population, while the ruling dynasty is representing another ethnic group (Hashemites) - the influx of the Palestinians thus represents a political threat to the King, as particularly came to surface in the events known as Black September (Jordanian Civil war) in 1970. As the result of the crackdown, many Palestinians relocated to Lebanon, which for a while was a staging ground of Palestinian attacks against Israel, leading to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and the occupation of the Southern Lebanon by Israel till 2000 (meanwhile the Northern Lebanon was occupied by Syria, withdrawing in 2005.)

I doubt that more removed countries, especially those in Europe or North America, have any particular preference to non-Palestinian refugees. Refugees are a controversial issue in most of these countries, regardless of their origin. I would even suggest that Palestinians from Gaza would have easier time getting refugee status, since they are escaping from a real military conflict, rather than seeking better economic conditions... but most Palestinians simply do not have means to get that far from Gaza.

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    I would recommend highlighting the second to last paragraph (Jordan's political domestic considerations), as they are probably the main reason for the difference in "near abroad".
    – user4012
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 4:25
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The simple answer is that you're not taking about the same countries. Gaza only borders Israel and Egypt. Neither of those took in much Syrian refugees.

Egypt did take in some Syrian refugees but way back in 2012 (145K according to UN), before there were a lot of political changes in Egypt. The number of Syrians in Egypt actually went down to 116K in 2016, according to Wikipedia. As for accepting refugees from Gaza...

At a time when there are increasing concerns about a potential mass Palestinian migration toward the Egyptian border with Gaza, Sisi emphasized that "there will be no compromise on Egypt’s national security under any circumstances, and the Egyptian people must be aware of the complexities of the situation and the magnitude of the threat.” [...]

He added that Egypt will not allow the termination of the Palestinian cause at the expense of other parties.

As for Israel, apparently it accepted zero Syrian refugees (ibid).

And to quote from a related Q, there' not much appetite for more refugees even in Turkey these days:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration has forcibly deported hundreds of Syrian refugees since late 2022, while his primary challenger, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has vowed to send all Syrian refugees back to their country of origin in under two years, regardless of circumstances in Syria.

Or in Europe for that matter, at least at its borders. Maybe Germany would be more accepting, but unless they plain airlift them, it's not even clear how they'd even get there.

And Germany hasn't done a lot explaining but

Germany on Wednesday [Nov 15] said that Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s call for a “voluntary migration” of Palestinians in Gaza is “not acceptable.”

"We have noted these comments. They are not helpful. They are also not acceptable," deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Christian Wagner told media representatives in Berlin.

FWTW, this is probably not the only reason but:

According to figures from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, Germany registered a 28% increase in asylum applications in 2022, with over 244,000. The top three sources of applicants were Syria, Afghanistan and Turkey; Ukrainians do not have to apply.

But the newcomers encounter a harsh reality: 12 out of 16 states in Germany currently do not have enough space to handle refugees, according to a local media report. The issue is particularly pressing in the cold winter months, amid a scramble to ensure that people have at least a makeshift roof over their heads.

And:

SEPTEMBER 20, 2023

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the number of migrants coming to the country had pushed it to “breaking point,” as he called for a fairer European system of migrant distribution.

FWTW:

"Bulgaria last year received some 20,000 asylum applications – the highest number in a single year over 30 years of recorded statistics," Boris Cheshirkov from UNHCHR Bulgaria told InfoMigrants. The main countries of origin of asylum seekers were Syria, Afghanistan, and Morocco (Ukrainians are exempt from the asylum application process).

Proportionally with their (7 million) population, that's about the same per capita as applications in Germany, last year.


Additionally, Gazans are seen [in some quarters] as having voted for the terrorist Hamas:

The 34 conservative senators who wrote to Mr Biden include minority leader Mitch McConnell and armed services committee member Joni Ernst.

“We are not confident that your administration can adequately vet this high-risk population for terrorist ties and sympathies before admitting them into the United States,” they wrote.

“We must ensure Gazans with terrorist ties or sympathies are denied admission into the United States – no easy feat, given the fact that the Gazans were the ones who voted Hamas into power in 2006.”

I guess that (in contrast) Syrians get the benefit of the doubt that Assad was never subject to any competitive elections. However, US conservatives (also about half of them, then) also had [similar] concerns about immigration from Syria containing terrorist, e.g. (in 2015):

Twenty-five Republican governors vowed to block the entry of Syrian refugees into their states, arguing that the safety of Americans was at stake after the Paris attacks by terrorists including a man who entered Europe with a Syrian passport and posed as a migrant.

And this extended to polls (in 2015):

Nearly half of GOP-leaning respondents in the poll — 47 percent — both support the deportation of undocumented immigrants and oppose accepting refugees from Syria and other Mideast conflicts.

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There are several reasons for the difference.

  • Emigrating may not at all be what Gazans actually want. From a 2010 poll

Three-quarters of those polled said they preferred to stay put, with the main reason given being nationalist reasons.

Whether that attachment still holds true now is unclear. Certainly, since 2010, Gazans have had more time to evaluate life under Hamas (NPR, 2018). And a 2021 poll reports 40% wanting to leave.

  • Europe is already stretched with Syrian and Ukrainian refugees. The immediate neighboring countries also have capacity problems.

  • It needs to be mentioned that mass, grouped, Palestinian diasporas aren't always very "pleasant" for the host countries. See for example Lebanon or Jordan. A mass influx of Gazans to Europe, many of whom can be expected to be somewhat resentful of the West, would be challenging on a security basis. A more careful and measured immigration vetting and integration procedure may palliate that to a great extent, but still a concern. No, don't take this as concern or dislike about Palestine-origin residents in Western countries at the current time, I have no concerns there. Only with a mass influx as a result of expulsions.

  • Most of all, whatever Hamas' atrocities on 10/7, this seems like a perverse reward to Israel for its decades of intransigence towards Palestinian aspirations to statehood, shirking of its Oslo commitments and ignoring UN resolution 242. This would be, in essence, supporting another Nakba, all over again and, unless there were very firm commitments from Israel to let refugees back in, would seem like aiding ethnic cleansing. And some Israeli politicians are not averse to the comparison:

“We are now rolling out the Gaza Nakba,” Dichter, a member of the right-wing Likud party, said Saturday, in comments widely reported by Israeli media. “From an operational point of view, there is no way to wage a war — as the Israeli army seeks to do in Gaza — with masses between the tanks and the soldiers,” he said. Pressed on his use of the word “Nakba” to describe the situation in Gaza, he said again: “Gaza Nakba 2023. That’s how it’ll end.”

  • Last, Europe opened up to Syrians refugees in 2015 due to its justified concerns about the mass atrocities committed by Assad and his totalitarian government. A government generally reviled by the West. Should we not expect of Israel's democracy and values that it will behave in a considerably more ethical manner? Should we not expect that from a democracy that Western countries do, by and large, and justifiably so, support? Is hoping that Israelis will not elect a government ready to treat the Palestinians like Assad did his own people unreasonable?
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    'Emigrating may not at all be what Gazans actually want.' There's a larger Palestinian diaspora than Palestinians left in Gaza/the West Bank, so another way of looking at this is that the Gazans who are left are likely to disproportionately be the ones who don't want to leave.
    – Dakeyras
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 0:27
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    "this seems like a perverse reward to Israel " - do you say that some countries refuse to accept Palestinian refugees because they do not want to reward Israel? Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 6:25
  • FWIW, I've seen a more recent poll cited at another Politics.SE answer (pre-October 7), which I can't find a link to at the moment, which said more like 40% of Gazans would like to emigrate. Surely it must be above 50% now.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 3 at 19:22
  • @ohwilleke Coincidentally, I saw this 2018 article today, so, yes, you may have a point. That still leaves all the other reasons. Commented May 3 at 19:30
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I'm not really disagreeing with you, just pointing out an additional data point.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 3 at 19:32
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Palestinians have created big issues with each of the surrounding countries in the past. Egypt doesn't want them because they were involved in terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula. In fact, when Israel and Egypt signed their peace accord in 1979, Israel wanted Egypt to take back Gaza, but Egypt refused. And that was well before Hamas was in charge.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinai_insurgency

The Palestinians also tried to assassinate the King of Jordan and overthrow its government. Jordan then killed thousands of Palestinians in the process of exiling the PLO to Lebanon where they also tried to overthrow its government.

Palestinian political violence has targeted Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese, Jordanians,[21] Egyptians,[22] Americans[23] and citizens of other countries.[24] Attacks have taken place both within Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as internationally and have been directed at both military and civilian targets. Tactics have included hostage taking, plane hijacking, boat hijacking, stone and improvised weapon throwing, improvised explosive device (IED), knife attacks, shooting sprees, vehicle-ramming attacks, car bombs, suicide attacks, and assassinations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_political_violence

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Question:

Why were Syrian refugees more easily accepted in other countries than Gazan refugees now?

The Arab countries do not want to assist Israel in removing Arabs from their homes and lands. All of Israel is built on what were Arab lands and Arab homes after one of their many wars. primarily 1947 and 1967 wars but Israel continues to take Arab lands yearly, monthly, weekly right up until the present day. It's why there is so much international pressure on Israel every time they announce they are building new homes in their occupied territories, because those new homes represent more lost lands and displaced families.

The millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are the folks who used to live on those lands and in those homes. No Arab country wants to encourage nor participate in what they and international law and most countries including the EU and US consider a crime (illegal act). Taking the homes and lands of an entire people after the war is over, and ware housing them in refugee camps for decades while forcible keeping them from returning home.

You can't have a Jewish state in a land primarily populated by Arabs without displacing the Arabs. From the Arab perspective Israel created this crisis and it’s up to Israel to resolve it. The Arabs will not encourage Palestinians to leave, nor will they be accessories to any such effort.

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  • How is this different than what happened in Syria, where Assad displaced millions of Sunni Muslims? Commented May 4 at 20:04
  • @ErelSegal-Halevi. The most obvious way is the United States and EU aren’t funding and arming the genocidal Assad regime. Rather both sanction Syria for such behavior.
    – JMS
    Commented May 4 at 22:05
  • But Europe still accept the Sunni refugees, and by this, they help the Assad regime get rid of his Sunni opponents. Commented May 5 at 7:23
  • @ErelSegal-Halevi. Many Syrian refugees enter the EU illegally, I would also note there is no equivalence between Israel and Syrian wars. No indication Syria is trying to rid himself of his Arab majority or even the moslem Sunni majority in favor of his Alawite minority sect. And of course the US has boots on the ground in Syria for a decade, so no comparison.
    – JMS
    Commented May 5 at 18:49

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