Despite vocal support for Palestine, there is strong opposition in Egypt and Jordan to the acceptance of refugees from the region.
Instead, the two countries suggest Europe should take them in.
While the situation in Gaza is deteriorating and a humanitarian crisis seems to be unfolding, local solidarity appears limited.
Neighbouring Egypt is reluctant to open its borders as thousands of displaced Palestinians head south. Cairo is sending aid to Gaza but it does not want to accept refugees.
The Financial Times reported that a senior Egyptian official told a European counterpart: “You want us to take one million people? Well, I am going to send them to Europe. You care about human rights so much – well, you take them.”
The European official said: “The Egyptians are really, really angry” at the pressure on them to accept refugees.
Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said on October 16 that “forced displacement” was not an answer to the Palestinian predicament.
Aid for Palestine has been stuck at the Egyptian border. Egypt and Israel are now negotiating the opening of the crossing. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wants to remove around 500 foreign nationals and dual nationals from the beleaguered enclave.
On October 18, Israel said the aid would be made available to Palestinians who fled south but gave no further details on that.
Earlier this month, Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said: “Egypt will not allow the liquidation of the Palestinian question at the expense of other parties. There will be no lenience or squandering of Egypt’s national security under any circumstances.”
Egypt’s concerns regarding refugees comes against the backdrop of the country’s major economic crisis, meaning it would likely have difficulties supporting Palestinian arrivals even if it wanted to.
Also on October 16, King Abdullah II of Jordan likewise kept the door closed on the possible acceptance of Palestinian refugees.
He said it was a “red line” and accused “the usual suspects” of wanting to “create de facto issues on the ground”, implying Israel would not let Palestinian refugees return home and would take over the territory.
With this in mind, he stated: “No refugees in Jordan, no refugees in Egypt.”
Jordan and Egypt will refuse to open their borders for refugees from Gaza.
That was the message delivered by the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, at today’s press conference with Chancellor Olaf Scholz pic.twitter.com/w2x9TPBw9l
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) October 17, 2023
“This is a situation of humanitarian dimension that must be resolved in Gaza and the West Bank,” King Abdullah said. The “Palestinian challenge” and its future should not be shifted on to the shoulders of others, he added.
He did praise the efforts of Europe, in particular Germany, during a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
The King said Germany was setting an example in assisting refugees. He said that came “from a deep understanding that it is a global moral obligation and shared responsibility to stand behind migrants and their host communities”.
Jordan has more than two million Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. In addition, it is one of the countries most affected by the Syrian crisis, hosting the second-highest number of refugees from that conflict per capita in the world.
Of those, more than 760,000 are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. While most are from Syria, there are also large numbers from Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia. Some 83 per cent live in urban areas outside Jordanian refugee camps.
In Europe, First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf, who has family in Gaza, called for the UK to take in Palestinian refugees in the same way Ukrainians were accepted following Russia’s invasion.
“Firstly, they should immediately begin work on the creation of a refugee resettlement scheme for those in Gaza who want to, and are able to, leave,” he said.
“And when they do so, Scotland is willing to be the first country in the UK to offer safety and sanctuary to those caught up in these terrible attacks.”