Reports & Researches

Reasons for the refusal of Palestinian refugees to obtain a work permit And the implications of the Minister's decision The role of UN and human rights organizations in this crisis


Reasons for the refusal of Palestinian refugees to obtain a work permit

And the implications of the Minister's decision

The role of UN and human rights organizations in this crisis


The decision of the Lebanese Minister of Labor, Camille Abu Suleiman, on the organizing of labor, has provoked angry reactions among the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, those who started to stage sit-ins and protest movements against the closure of institutions and shops owned or run by Palestinians, following the start of inspection of the Ministry of Labor in all Lebanese territories on Thursday, 11/7/2019, within the framework of the imposition of the implementation of this resolution.

Why do the Palestinian refugees protest this resolution? What are the expected results after its implementation? Did international institutions play their part towards the rights of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon?

Why do the Palestinian refugees reject the decision of the Lebanese Minister of Labor regarding work permits? [1]

1.     Work permits are granted to a foreigner, and the Palestinian is not a foreigner. It is a refugee and enjoys special and exceptional rights in accordance with the law, and its legal status differs in form and substance from that of a foreigner.

2.     Work permits shall be granted for a fixed period of one to three years, renewed and issued in relation to the needs of the market.

3.     Work permits shall be granted according to a specific profession. Its issuance and renewal are also linked to the compatibility of the Minister of Labor with trade unions and for the needs of the Lebanese market.

4.     The authority of the Ministry of Labor shall remain on the necks of the employers and workers of Palestine for the duration and occupation.

5.     Any person holding a work permit shall not move to another institution or practice another profession without obtaining the prior approval of the Ministry of Labor.

6.     Institutions must train Lebanese workers to replace foreign workers. If Palestinian refugees are classified as foreigners, they will be on the waiting list until somebody came and take their places.

7.     Limited work permit (in terms of time and occupation) is an introduction to the limited residency of Palestinians in Lebanon.

8.     The inability of the Palestinian employer to apply for a bank loan with a longer repayment period than his work leave.

9.     The employer's vacation may be for months or years, while his investment takes years to pay off.

10.            The Palestinian worker pays 25.5% of his salary to the Social Security Fund and receives only 8.5%, which means he loses 17% of the salary.

Implications of the decision of the Lebanese Minister of Labor

1.     Change the legal status of Palestinians in Lebanon from refugees with special status to the category of foreign workers.This poses a serious threat to their political future and threatens the right of return based on established international resolutions and jus cogens.

2.     The Minister's decision will contribute to the emptying of the international organization entrusted with providing legal protection and services to refugees from their legal content, what is the agency's role for refugees whose legal status has been withdrawn and according to the Lebanese State, they became foreign workers subject to special provisions.

3.     This decision will raise unemployment and poverty to alarming levels. According to recent UNRWA statistics, unemployment rates reached 56% and poverty rates reached 73%.

4.     The Minister's decision to impose work permit on refugees will incur financial burdens he cannot bear. Although the Palestinian is exempted from the payment of work permit fees, he will have to pay other fees, among them, as indicated by the General Directorate of Lebanese Public Security: Ministry of Labor fees 36,000 Lebanese pounds (the minister proposes to become 100,000 pounds in the new budget) + Registration fees with the notary public (30 thousand Lebanese pounds for pledge) + Minimum of LBP 100,000 per work contract allowance, The total is 166,000 Lebanese pounds (up to 230,000), if we assume that the Palestinian will be exempted from other conditions such as: A certificate of deposit for the Housing Bank, which amounts to one million five hundred thousand Lebanese pounds.

5.     This decision will lead to further unemployment, poverty and marginalization, which will inevitably lead to a rise in illegal immigration. Where in less than a month after the Labor Minister's decision, Beirut witnessed more than 700 Palestinians demonstrated in front of the Canadian Embassy on Tuesday, August 6, 2019, demanding a collective exodus to Canada, in order to refuse to live in Lebanon in light of the denial of civil and economic rights, the latest of which was the Minister of Labor's decision.

6.     Palestinian workers will be subject to complex "discretion" and "bureaucracy"; It may also be subject to the mood of the employee. The work permit application form (for the first time or renewal) is signed by four officials: the head of the department, and his vice president the director general and the minister. This means that transactions can stop at any ofthem, according to their discretion.

The role of international institutions


1.     UNRWA's responsibility is clear in providing legal protection and basic services to Palestine refugees.

2.     UNRWA's role in providing such protection has not been as required level among Palestine refugees in Lebanon.

3.     UNRWA implicitly endorsed the decision of the Minister of Labor, which shocked Palestinian refugees. Where its role is to provide legal protection in its comprehensive sense.

4.     UNRWA's position in support of the Minister's decision did not take into account the legal dimension of the matter, nor did it take the extreme outrage of the refugee community. This may have given a clear signal to the Minister to continue with this decision.

5.     It is required that the matter be submitted comprehensively from the legal mandate of UNRWA to the Agency's Commission and not to UNRWA management in Lebanon, or with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

6.     President Mahmoud Abbas can carry this file and put it in the diplomaticcorridors of the United Nations or international.

United Nations

1.     In view of the powers vested in the Charter of the Organization and its unique international character, the United Nations works to defend human rights issues,

2.     There was no clear position from the UN or one of its specialized agencies or organizations regarding the current crisis triggered by the Lebanese Minister of Labor.

3.     There has been no clear and unambiguous position of the United Nations regarding the difficult humanitarian situation of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon as a result of the asylum and the general policies adopted by the Lebanese State against the Palestinian refugees.

4.     The UN has not instructed UNRWA (at least through what we have seen) to fulfill its legal and humanitarian commitment to refugees, especially in difficult situations experienced by refugees.

Local and international human rights organizations:

1.     Human rights organizations play a leading and prominent role in defending human rights. They constitute the fifth power.

2.     Human rights organizations play multiple roles of lobbying, advocacy and education, which can constitute a collective awareness and make society a partner in the defense of human rights.

3.     It is not recorded that local human rights organizations issued positions on the current crisis (statements, meetings, memos  ...).

4.     Leading international organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, although they have issued various positions on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and urged local authorities to respect Palestinian human rights in Lebanon earlier, they have not yet issued a position on the current crisis.

5.     A lobby can be formed from local and international human rights organizations and communicate with the Lebanese government to address this crisis in a way that preserves the rights of refugees.


1.     We call on the international institutions to play their role in defending the rights of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and guaranteeing their lives in dignity based on the International Bill of Human Rights.

2.     We call on the Lebanese Minister of Labor to reverse his decision to impose work permits on Palestinian refugees because of their special situation.

3.     We call on the Lebanese government to issue an implementing decree to activate the amendment of Laws 128 and 129, by which the Palestinian refugee is treated as a special category of foreign workers and has a legal status different from other nationalities.

4.     The Lebanese government and the Minister of Labor should respect international human rights obligations, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and adhere to the Casablanca Protocol of 1965.


Beirut in August 23, 2019

Palestinian Association for Human Rights (witness)

[1] Summary of a working paper presented by Mr. Tarek Akkawi in a seminar organized by the Lebanese Palestinian Business Forum in the Municipality of Saida 2/8/2019 under the title: "On the procedures of the Ministry of Labor"