GENEVA – Around 400,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, including more than 170,000 refugees in refugee camps. This number accounts for 9 % of the total number of Palestinians registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) worldwide. About 11% of the total population of Lebanon. The state issues only a few laws and decrees related to them, leaving a legal vacuum that leads to their poor condition.
This report, prepared by the Geneva Council for Right and Justice, highlights the difficult conditions that these refugees face under these legal spaces and the absence of protection of their fundamental rights.
The 1948 Nakba (displacement that followed the establishment of the State of Israel) had consequences that had a profound impact on the lives of Palestinians and their descendants even after several years. Compared to refugees elsewhere in the world, refugees living in Lebanon in particular face an unprecedented state of political, economic and social exclusion.
In addition, more than half the Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon have no choice but to live in squalid and overcrowded camps, and the rest live in 27 other communities.
The exaggeration of the fear of resettlement among groups in the Lebanese authority and people led to the failure to offer solutions to deprive the human rights and social rights of the Palestinians in Lebanon and caused many tragedies and dilemmas that can not be solved.
Throughout the years of Palestinian refugee status in Lebanon, the Lebanese authority has not only limited minimum civil rights but has made new decisions that have vanished these rights.
Lebanese law is a foreign refugee, with a special status. A normal foreigner, whatever his nationality, is entitled after five years of continuous residence to demand citizenship.
Lebanon has already committed itself to a decision issued by the League of Arab States to prevent the resettlement of Palestinians and was enshrined in its current constitution and in order to preserve the Palestinians’ right to return to their homeland.
Legal practice, however, enshrines discrimination on both sectarian and religious grounds. An estimated 50,000 Palestinians, mostly Christians, have been naturalized since 1950 until the last Naturalization Law of 1994, which restored some 30,000 of the seven villages – Shiites and Christians – to Lebanese citizenship.
In the report, Geneva Council reviewed models of Lebanese laws that affect the conditions of Palestinians in housing, work, social security, real estate, education, democratic freedoms, free professions, and other fields.
Freedom and Residency: When the large numbers of refugees arrived, fleeing the Israeli war in Palestine in 1948, Lebanon opened its borders without procedures to receive them all.
After it became clear over time that Israel would not implement UN Resolution 194 to return Palestinian refugees, the Lebanese authorities took several practical measures to regulate the establishment and travel of refugees.
On July 10, 1962, the first law regulating the residence of foreigners in Lebanon was issued and re-drafted by Law No. 319 of August 3, 1962, in which the first section of the law dealt with the division of foreigners into five categories. The Palestinians in Lebanon are determined to work for the settlement of their legal status prior to 1962 before the General Security.
This law was added later in 1975 to complete the situation of the Palestinians who had not completed their papers. Every Palestinian who has been able to obtain a travel document enabling him to leave and return to Lebanon has been issued by the Ministry of the Interior’s public security.
However, from time to time the Lebanese authorities take legal decisions aimed at obstructing the travel of Palestinians or returning travelers. In the wake of the 1982 Israeli invasion, Lebanese public security introduced the requirement that every Palestinian wishing to obtain a travel document prove that he is registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
If we know that several thousand refugees have not been registered on relief lists, they have lost their right to access documents, which has affected their social status.
On September 1, 1995, the Lebanese authorities took advantage of the Libyan measures to expel the Palestinians after the Oslo Accords, including the Lebanese documents campaign, to provoke a whirlwind of counter-mobilization and to return them and to take a legal decision No. 478 dated 22/09/1995 Palestinians, by imposing a visa, preventing the return of these refugees and preventing their families from reuniting.
The implications of the application of the mentioned law include the following:
– It introduced a collective punishment for the Palestinians in Lebanon, which contravenes the Lebanese law stipulated in Decree 1188 of July 28, 1962 in Article 22 that the Palestinian wishing to travel to obtain a travel document from the competent authorities. After receiving them, he can travels freely between Lebanon and abroad and has the right to renew the travel document through Lebanese missions abroad.
– The new procedure effectively cancels the validity of the travel document and requires a special permit to allow the entry of its Palestinian holder into Lebanon.
– When the Lebanese embassies abroad were very passive with the Palestinians, their denial of entry visas left tens of thousands of people stranded abroad to return to Lebanon. Resolution 478 did not give Palestinians time to arrange their papers legally.
– The Palestinians generally are abstained from traveling abroad after the issuance of the decision for a long period, first until the administrative procedures are implemented from the Lebanese public security, and secondly because of the fear that they would not be allowed to return under the cover of new arguments, resulting in severe economic hardship. Work for the Palestinian is not available in Lebanon at the time.
– The Lebanese authorities have committed a clear violation of Lebanon’s Arab commitments, even though it signed the Casablanca Protocol of September 1965, which stipulates that Palestinians in the Arab countries in which they reside shall be treated as nationals of Arab countries in their travel and residence. While retaining their Palestinian nationality.
– The international diplomatic treaties provide that the country of origin of the passport or travel document must be accepted by the country of origin, with the return of its holder and the obligation to do so without the rest of the States. Thus, Lebanon contravenes international agreements by effectively expelling Palestinians to other countries without their consent, and preventing their return.
Right to housing:
Palestinians suffer from laws and decisions that govern their housing effectively. Since the asylum, they have lived in small refugee camps. Under lease agreements between the state and UNRWA and owners of a number of lands.
The Lebanese government has refrained from giving any land for any new camp to accommodate newborns. Three generations have passed since the resort, and the size of the camps themselves has not been allowed to be expanded horizontally. The Lebanese public security had issued a decision to ban construction in the camps, forcing many to seek shelter in poor areas, the so-called poverty belt around the cities, especially the capital Beirut.
Right to work:
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon suffer from very high unemployment rates, and many families depend on the amounts of their children who work outside Lebanon.
In 2010, a law was passed allowing Palestinians to obtain leave from the Ministry of Labor, but professionals such as engineers and doctors were subject to trade union regulations, which normally required reciprocity or practice in their own country in advance, thereby expelling them from legal practice.
– Right of representation and reference:
The Lebanese state does not officially recognize the Palestinians’ right to self-government for the affairs of their camps or communities and does not involve them in any decision concerning them or the areas in which they live.
In general, the recognition of Palestinian representation quickly emptied the Lebanese authority. The current official recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with the representation of the Palestinian Authority embassy in 2008, is an actual recognition of the camps’ specificity, but the imposition of a blockade on its entrances and the closure of camp entrances.
– The right to education:
UNRWA is in principle the one that bears the main and most important burden of educating the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. It has its own schools that accept the will of the Palestinians to pursue its studies for the elementary and intermediate levels and to supplement vocational training.
Recently, UNRWA has set up secondary schools in Beirut, Sidon, and Tyre after the expulsion of Palestinian students by decision. At the Lebanese government and university schools, colleges are allowed within the permitted percentage of foreigners (10%) and are denied by teachers of the Faculty of Education and Teachers’ Ten years ago.
Private schools generally receive Palestinians, as long as they are able to pay premiums and costs, which are generally prohibitive, and it is rare for religious denominational schools to accept them.
It is estimated that there are about 3,000 university students, 2,500 secondary students in addition to primary and middle school, noting that a large number of children drop out of school because of poverty for their families.
The Lebanese government does not provide any services or treatment to refugees, infants, and children suffering from deep water shortages.
– The camps and environmental health:
From now on, after being connected since 1948, 300%, from 100,000 to 350,000, has been subject to flow and sanitation in the camps, especially in the absence of infrastructure.
At the end of its report, Geneva Council for Rights and Justice stressed the need to grant Palestinian refugees in Lebanon their basic rights in light of the ban on the resettlement of Palestinians in Lebanon since the 1989 Taif Agreement.
It stressed that the Palestinians in Lebanon agree unanimously to accept the abandonment of citizenship in exchange for their civil rights such as the right to freedom of work in any of the areas to be treated and compensated like the Lebanese employees.
GCRJ also urged that the international community should provide the necessary support to the Lebanese government so that it can grant Palestinian refugees their basic rights, including allowing them to lead decent lives while their case is resolved to return to their places of origin.