The Palestinian Authority has released its first every survey of Palestinian
emigration, showing that about 7,000 people leave the West Bank and Gaza every
year, mostly for economic opportunities rather than to escape the conflict with
Israel, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
The PCBS said most of the emigrants were looking for better
educational opportunities, improved living conditions and jobs. Most Palestinian
emigrants went to neighboring Jordan (24%), the U.S. (22%) and the Arab Gulf
states (20%), the survey, released on Tuesday, found.
"This is the first
time we've ever conducted a survey on emigration and it is important for us to
have these data," Mohammed Duraidi, director of the Migration Survey, told The
Media Line. "We had no idea what the numbers would be, but I'm not surprised by
the results. The number of [annual emigrants] 7,000, isn't a big number and it
is offset by the number of returnees." The Palestinian economy has been growing
in the past two years, but before that, the conflict with Israel took a toll by
restricting the movement of people and goods and access to employment in Israel.
Improved security as well as foreign aid has enabled the West Bank economy to
grow, and to a lesser extent in the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, the peace process
with Israel is stalled and Gaza remains subject to an Israeli
The PCBS survey covered the period 2005 -2009,during which it
found that 32,804 Palestinians left the Palestinian areas. But between 5,000
to7,000 Palestinians returned to the PA annually, totaling 30,411.
survey said most of the emigrants were young, single men. It also found 50% more
males than females were emigrating. About one-third cited education as their
cause for emigrating, 15% improving their living conditions and 14% lack of job
opportunities in the Palestinian territories. One third had a bachelors degree
or higher and seven out of 10 had completed secondary education, which indicated
a brain-drain from the PA.
When asked if there was a negative perception
of emigrants among Palestinians, Duraidi declined to answer. But he noted that
the survey also asked in general about desires to emigrate.
It found that
13% of those polled would consider emigrating, with 39% citing improved living
conditions as their chief motivation. There was a marked distinction between the
West Bank and Gaza Strip, with 14% in the latter saying they wanted to leave due
to the security situation, compared with just 6% in the West
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Three-quarters of those polled said they preferred to stay put,
with the main reason given being nationalist reasons.
Duraidi said the
PCBS used the United Nations definition of emigrant, which is anyone who stays
abroad for over a year, even if it is for studies.
The survey also
examined immigration to the PA and found that more than one third of returnees
were from Jordan and 29% were from the Gulf states.
Nearly 40% were
between the ages of 15 and 29.
Duraidi said comparative data with
previous decades didn't exist. But the survey by the PCBS said a quarter of
returnees to the Palestinian territories came prior to 1991. About one third of
immigrants came in the wake of the Oslo peace accords and growing prosperity
This fell with the outbreak of violence in September
2000 leading to the incursion by Israeli troops into the Palestinian
The PCBS poll also examined the internal movement of Palestinians
and found that there was a flow from Ramallah to the Nablus area, Tubas to
Jenin, and Bethlehem and Jerusalem to Jericho. It said the movement between the
Gaza Strip and the West Bank was extremely limited due to Israeli security
Duraidi said the survey didn't detect any major transformation
of the Palestinian clan-based culture that traditionally sees men cling to their
hometowns. The vast majority of those moving were women, mainly for marriage
reasons, he noted.
Still he said 70% of Palestinians were living in urban
areas, with only 30% listed as rural.
The study was done in conjunction
with MEDSTAT, a European Union project aiding Mediterranean countries with
statistical research. It was paid for by the Palestinian Authority. Some 15,000
households were questioned in face to face interviews, including 5,000 in the
Yoram Ettinger, a former Israeli government official who has
investigated Palestinian demographics, called the PCBS survey "total nonsense."
"It's another symptom of the lack of reliability, and this is because the
Palestinians do not have control of their international passages, which are the
venues for immigrants and emigrants," Ettinger told The Media
Author of " he Million Person
Gap: The Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza" - a controversial study that
claims the number of Palestinians in the PA was 2.5 million and not 3.9 million
as the PCBS claims - Ettinger said that in 2009 alone Israeli figures recorded a
net emigration of 17,000.
"In 2008, it was 16,000 and in 2007 and 2006 it
was 15,000," Ettinger said.
"This is net emigration." "Their [PCBS]
figures are absolutely out of touch of reality and that is typical of them," he
added. "Unfortunately, demographers take this as a credible source and error
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