Following its main rights-based objectives in observing the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, following up closely with the concerned authorities, and based on human rights professional standards, and in order to monitor the repercussions of the economic crisis on the lives of Palestinian refugees, the Palestinian Association for Human Rights (Witness) has conducted a comprehensive rights-based study that took two months to be accomplished.
This study had an approach to several pillars of which the most important is to monitor the most important digital indicators of the economic crisis in Lebanon and its impact on the Palestinian refugees. Other pillar was the role of UNRWA in facing the ongoing crisis through interviews with the concerned authorities. The study also included monitoring the most prominent attempts made by civil society organizations, in addition to introducing the points of views of Palestinian refugees through an E-survey. Thus, the study resulted with a set of summaries and recommendations.
Regarding the study, The Lebanese state treats the Palestinian person as a foreigner of a special type and not a foreigner treated with the principle of reciprocity, or a refugee subject to international rules or a person who meets the rules of international human rights law, which makes the life of the Palestinian refugee in Lebanon even worse.
The study conducted a before/after comparison among the statistics reported by UNRWA in cooperation with the American University of Beirut, where the study presented recent figures and statistics issued by international organizations related to the economic situation in Lebanon. It turns out that there are shocking facts about the economic and social conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
Observing the extreme poverty rates among Palestinians in Lebanon, the relief program in the Social Affairs Department covers only 15% of the total Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The fact that every person get 30$ every 3 months, as well as the complete and sudden ceasing of the UNRWA university scholarship program during 2018.
As the economic crisis reflects on the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, the study monitored the dismissal of hundreds of Palestinian workers from their jobs, noting that 65% of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are already unemployed, and it is noteworthy mentioning that 98.2% of the workers do not get sick or annual leave.
In addition, the prices of basic goods, meat and vegetables, which increased between 40% and 60%, the study showed the weak purchasing power of the Palestinian refugees community. Noting that 38% of the Palestinians in Lebanon suffer food insecurity. It is important to note that there is a banking crisis that prevents the normal withdrawal of the savings.
Meetings were held with UNRWA and Palestinian Red Crescent officials, researchers and managers of civil society organizations to closely monitor the repercussions of the crisis on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The interviews concluded that there is a real and serious problem faced by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon resulting from cumulative and other causes related to the current economic crisis, where everyone called for the necessity of declaring a state of emergency in order not to worsen or increase the crisis.
There also were several societal movements undertaken by Palestinian civil society organizations. According to the study, despite the importance of these movements, they are apparently unable to address the crisis in a real and effective manner, but they remain appreciated, especially in light of the current circumstances. The study noted that no comprehensive relief or development program was implemented by UNRWA or other international organizations.
The study also conducted the points of views of Palestinian refugees, through an electronic survey consisting of 27 questions to closely view the effects of the Lebanese political and economic crisis and the extent of this impact on the Palestinian refugees’ community in Lebanon. The field work phase was ongoing for 15 days, during which 319 people were surveyed from inside and outside Palestinian camps and gatherings from various governorates of Lebanon. The figures released by the survey were put into comparison with international figures, facts and reports.
The study showed that 36% of the surveyed group are unemployed, while 34% of them work between freelance and agricultural work. The study also indicated that 10% of the surveyed are working in civil society institutions, and the remaining percentages were distributed among different jobs.
As for the income of Palestinian families, the results showed that 49% of families have a monthly income of less than 500,000 LBP, which is below the minimum wage, meaning that Palestinian families are really unable to cover basic expenses.
Regarding the reflection of the current crisis, the study showed that 34.2% of the breadwinners of the family were dismissed, 47.6% of them work part-time, while 18.2% of them continue to work normally, which is a low percentage already.
19% of families live in extreme poverty, while 53.3% live in poverty.
According to the study, the most prominent current needs of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon range from providing decent work opportunities to the need to provide emergency and continuous food assistance.
Regarding the ability to provide the health care bill, 72.4% of the refugees surveyed confirmed their inability to pay the substitution in the medical bill, according to the UNRWA treatment system. Noting that the study showed that 55% of the surveyed group suffers from chronic diseases.
According to authorities responsible for dealing with this crisis, 64.1% of the refugees surveyed confirmed that UNRWA, the PLO, other Palestinian factions and the Lebanese state all bear responsibility towards the refugees, while 26% of the refugees have limited the responsibility to UNRWA only.
The study concluded with a number of recommendations, of which the most important are:
UNRWA must declare a state of emergency to deal with the current repercussions and invite donors to provide emergency aid to refugees.
The Palestine Liberation Organization to establish a social solidarity fund similar to the "Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund."
The Lebanese government to improve the conditions of the Palestinian refugees in general and to ease the procedures and restrictions on the Palestinian workers in particular.
A Palestinian economic committee to be composed of specialists and businessmen in Lebanon concerned with improving the conditions of Palestinian refugees.