Thursday, June 24, 2010

Treatment of the Palestinians in Lebanon – Points of Interest for Comparison

General: Lebanon, the Arab state whose constitution recognizes equal rights and whose responsibility for running the state is distributed among various minorities and sectors, prevents its Palestinian inhabitants, who represent 10% of the population in Lebanon, from receiving basic rights as required under international law. This paper is based on certified international sources.

Basic Statistics of the Conditions of the Palestinians in Lebanon – According to UNRWA:

· 425, 000 registered refugees

· 12 camps

· 75 schools (including 6 secondary schools) with 33,000 pupils

· Two vocational and technical training centres

· 29 primary health centres

· One community rehabilitation centre

· Nine women's programme centres

Statistics correct as of December 31, 2009.

According to Additional Overt Sources Including "Amnesty":

· The Palestinians in Lebanon were previously prohibited from engaging in 70 professions, but today they are 'only' prohibited from 20, but they are still forbidden to work outside their refugee camps:

· The Lebanese government does not issue the Palestinian refugees with Lebanese passports or travel documents.

· They have no health insurance or access to the most basic services

· The Lebanese Army has stationed checkpoints at the entrance to the Palestinian refugee camps that check every vehicle and person.

· Approximately three years ago, the Lebanese Army destroyed the 'Nahar Al Barad' Palestinian refugee camp, adjacent to Tripoli, while using artillery fire during battles in the Islamist faction 'Fatah Al Islam'. Scores of uninvolved citizens were killed during the battles, and all 27,000 inhabitants of the camp escaped.

· The Lebanese government prohibits bringing building materials and restoring structures in the Palestinian refugee camps in its domain.


Listed below are several examples as they appear in various organizations' public reports:

A. A Blow to the Freedom of Employment – from an UNRWA report:

"Around 425,000 refugees are registered with UNRWA in Lebanon, with many living in the country’s 12 refugee camps."

"Palestinian refugees in Lebanon do not enjoy several basic human rights, for example, they do not have the right to work in as many as 20 professions. Palestinian refugees are not formally citizens of another state, so they are not able to claim the same rights as other foreigners living and working in Lebanon."

"As a Palestinian, you study and pay fees then you can’t work"


The restrictions on the rights of Palestinians refugees to seek employment (24) have direct negative consequences on their children’s enjoyment of the right to education. In many cases, Palestinian families interviewed by Amnesty International indicated that children dropped out of school as they believe that spending many years of education to finish school or university would be wasted as they would not be able to use such education to gain a living in Lebanon.

Amnesty International considers that the government of Lebanon should ensure that all Palestinian refugee children, including non-ID Palestinian refugee children, have access to education on an equal basis with Lebanese nationals, including access to free primary education.

B. Restrictions on Building

The Lebanese Government forbids the reconstruction of totally destroyed camps, and in other camps any reconstruction or building requires a special permit which is usually not issued. In some camps, Lebanese soldiers verify that the residents are not smuggling in building materials. Building without a permit is punishable by arrest and detention" (USCR Report, 1999)


…UNRWA was unable to contribute to the renovation of 3 camps located in the south due to the Lebanese authorities’ decision to ban the introduction of construction materials into the camps since 1998, which eventually lead to the deterioration of the situation of these camps due to limited areas and tremendous increase in the population size"

"I built [the wall of] a small room in 2003. The police came and pulled it down"


Amnesty International considers that the government of Lebanon should remove all restrictions imposed on the entry of building materials to Palestinian refugee camps and gatherings and to allow Palestinian refugees in camps and gatherings to make improvements to their homes.

C. Preventing the Appropriate Development of Palestinian Children: A Lack of Suitable Structures, Education, Culture, Social Topics Etc. – From the Amnesty Report - Lebanon: Limitations on Rights of Palestinian Refugee Children: Briefing to the Committee on the Rights of the Child

"Amnesty International considers that the issues presented in this document raise important human rights concerns in relation to Lebanon’s obligations under international human rights law in general, and under the Convention in particular

Amnesty International considers that the fulfillment of the human rights of Palestinian refugees, including the economic, social, and cultural rights discussed in this document, does in no way prejudice their right of return.

D. Educating the Children of Palestinian Residents – Amnesty – Even within the field of elementary education – Palestinians fare worse.

The educational levels of Palestinian [refugee] children is not comparable to that of Lebanese children or even to Palestinian [refugee] children living in neighboring Arab hosting countries. Out of three Palestinian children in Lebanon, aged 10 and above, one child leaves school before finishing primary or intermediate. The dropout rate is 39%, which is tenfold higher than for Lebanese students for male and female alike. As for those holding high-school degrees or higher education, they are few in number and they are twofold less in comparison to Lebanese students… Those opting to pursue their education, and they are few, try to get enrolled in free government schools. Furthermore, places are limited in these schools, and priority is given to Lebanese students whenever they are available.

In conclusion – from a review of the reports of the last few years of various independent organizations that tend to criticize Israel's policies, – one can learn that in several areas, the Palestinian residents of Lebanon do not receive the rights entitled to them under international law.

A variety of restrictions that the Government of Lebanon implements against the Palestinians in its domain – according to reports by Amnesty, UNRWA and the Department of Palestinian Refugee Affairs (DAPR) including (in the language of the reports and in the original terminology):

1. Residency, travel and travel documents

2. Right to Health Care

3. Right to Education

4. Right to Employment/Freedom of Association

5. Social Security

6. Restrictions on Building

7. Restrictions on Property Ownership and Transfer

8. Right to be Registered and Right to a Name

9. Naturalization (Tawteen)


Details and Testimony Regarding the Restrictions on Building for Palestinians:

Palestinian refugees living in gatherings are particularly hard hit by the policies of the Lebanese government. Families have lived in these gatherings since shortly after Palestinian refugees arrived in 1948. Living conditions in gatherings such as Jal Al-Bahr can be precarious. Located on the outskirts of the southern city of Saida, Jal El-Bahr occupies a thin strip of land between a highway and the sea; children have to cross the highway to go to school in the nearby camp of Al-Bus. Residents reported that a number of houses were completely destroyed by flooding from sea water in the winter of 2005. A typical feature of many houses in gatherings is the corrugated metal sheets that are placed side by side to act as a wall or a ceiling; they do not provide adequate protection from the elements, letting in both rain and wind, and they become excessively hot during the summer. Replacing these metal sheets with brick would substantially improve the quality of housing for refugees; however, the Lebanese authorities do not allow the refugees to do this.

Amnesty International has recorded cases where Palestinian refugees living in such accommodation have attempted to replace ceilings or walls made of corrugated metal sheets by building bricks and have consequently been fined and had their recently built ceilings or walls pulled down by the local police. In one case, a woman was arrested by police and detained until the brick wall her husband had recently built was pulled down. In another case, a family had taken a private loan to rebuild their house, which was in a severely dilapidated state. This new structure was bulldozed by the Lebanese authorities, because they had not received permission to build. The family then had to rent a new house while at the same time paying back the loan they had received to build the demolished house, causing a substantial drain on their limited resources.

Another refugee, Khaled, has lived with his parents, then with his wife and children in El-Ma’shouk gathering in Tyre for 32 years after his parents moved from the Burj El-Shemali camp (Tyre) to a bigger house. He left school in fourth grade to support his family when his father was detained during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. He now lives in a small house close to his parents, with his wife and children. His parents’ house has one room where the ceiling is made of corrugated metal while the other room has a ceiling made of bamboo sticks topped by mud. "To build bricks in the ceiling instead we need permission from the local authority. The local authority does not give authorization. We could go to the governorate but it does not give authorization either."

As for his own house, Khaled "built [the wall of] a small room in 2003. The police came and pulled it down"; he had to pay a LL230,000 fine.

The actions of the Lebanese authorities, in preventing Palestinian refugees from carrying out improvements that would make their accommodation safe, habitable and adequate, violate the duty to respect the right to adequate housing without discrimination, including the right of Palestinian children to enjoy adequate housing conditions and an adequate standard of living. Amnesty International believes that this practice is in violation of Lebanon’s obligation under article 27 of the Convention to "take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement… [the right to an adequate standard of living] and… in case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing."

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