Report: No improvement for
BEIRUT: There has been no
improvement in the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon over
the past year, experts from the Palestinian Association for Human Rights said
at a news conference Thursday. Palestinians suffer from poor education and health
services and battle legally sanctioned discrimination, according to a report
released by the association, also known as Witness, in an event at the Press
Refugees are also subjected to
political and economic scrutiny, which affects their daily lives.
"In brief, the humanitarian situation of
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is becoming more fragile,” the report said.
Its conclusions are drawn from the
association’s evaluation of progress made over the past year by the Lebanese
government, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees,
the Palestine Liberation Organization and the international community.
Witness, an independent association
working to improve the lives of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, releases
annual reports evaluating living conditions and services.
There are more than 400,000
registered Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, according to UNRWA, distributed
across 12 refugee camps, the largest of which is Sidon’s Ain al-Hilweh camp.
Palestinians in Lebanon have long
been subjected to discrimination, exacerbated by the volatile situation in the
region. There have been fears that spillover from the Syrian war could
stimulate extremist activity in the camps, which has brought increased scrutiny
and pressure from the government.
"The Ain al-Hilweh
camp has come under especially strict security measures following every
[security] incident [in the country],” the report said. "Such measures leave a
deep impact on the lives of the Palestinian refugees residing in the camp.”
Even the deployment of a
150-member elite Palestinian force to preserve security could be undermined by
the actions of the Lebanese Army, the report said.
"Camps became the
focus of military and political interest ... residents fear that [if there is]
a security incident, that they will pay the price, similar to what happened in
The Nahr al-Bared camp in north
Lebanon was reduced to rubble in 2007 following three-month-long battles with
militants from Fatah al-Islam, who took over the camp.
Last year also brought no changes
in the legal prohibition on Palestinians working in various professions.
Palestinians are confined to jobs in agriculture and construction.
"We should be
allowed to work [...] our capital is here, we are present here and we
contribute to this country,” Mahmoud al-Hanafi, Witness’s managing director,
told The Daily Star.
Refugees are denied the right to
own property or receive inheritance and do not receive free medical services in
governmental hospitals. Except in rare cases, Palestinian students are
prohibited from attending public schools, the report said.
Building materials aren’t allowed
into the camps, and despite overcrowding, their geographic limits are fixed.
The ban on construction materials is driven by government fears that
full-fledged houses would be built, which it sees as a sign of permanent
settlement in Lebanon.
The association put forward a set
of recommendations for the government, saying it should deal with the
Palestinian refugee camps with a humanitarian approach rather than a military
one, particularly with regard to checkpoints. It argued that most of the residents
are refugees, who have no intention of destabilizing the country.
The report also recommended that
the government issue "PVC magnetic ID cards and passports for Palestinian
refugees, similar to those issued for Lebanese citizens, in compliance with
The report was heavily critical of
the aid provided by UNRWA, which offers health and education services in the
camps and is responsible for helping improve living conditions there. The
agency was also given a mandate to rebuild the Nahr al-Bared camp at the 2008
The report claimed that no
"significant development” has been recorded in health services, despite the
dire need for better care. X-rays, MRI machines and modern lab equipment are
reportedly lacking at UNRWA health centers and there is a problem with under
is a] need to train the staff – namely nurses – to practice a more effective
role, including the stitching, cleaning and treatment of injuries.”
The report also decried the state
of schools in the camps. "UNRWA’s educational institutions remain, at the date
of this report, inadequately equipped and staffed.”
Although the U.N. organization has
a scholarship program for Palestinian refugees, funded by an external budget,
the organization reportedly provided only 39 scholarships in 2014, compared to
90 in 2010.
After seven years, just over half
of Nahr al-Bared has been rebuilt and the report cited a number of issues with
the new construction.
complained of the poor reconstruction standards, namely water leakage, cracks
in the buildings and poor painting,” the report added.
"We’re not claiming
that this report will push the Lebanese government to change its policy toward
Palestinian refugees,” Hanafi said. "[It] is part of a cumulative work and a
A version of this article appeared
in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 27, 2015, on page 2.