The conflict between Israeli and Palestinians commenced back since
the World War I onwards when the Israelis announced the forcible establishment
of their state on the Palestinian land in 1948 leading to
what is called the Nakbah. During the Nakbah, many massacres and violations
against Palestinians were documented.
The Zionist militias didn’t differentiate
between men, women, and children as it killed hundreds of Palestinians and
expelled around 750 thousand from their land in a non-humanitarian manner. The
Palestinians had to flee majorly to nearby countries like Syria, Lebanon, and
Throughout the 75 years since the being
displaced by Nakbah, Palestinians have been and still suffering various
challenges and crisis especially legal challenges and rights deprivation in all
places of their residence during the early stage after their expulsion.
The Palestinian refugees have suffered -
the most in Lebanon - in the places of asylum in terms of their basic rights.
The following report sheds light on the legal situation of the Palestinian
refugees in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon through a comparative study to
understand the real suffering especially in Lebanon.
First: Palestinian refugees in Jordan
Out of 736 thousand Palestinians expelled
from their land in 1948, 70 thousand fled to Jordan in 1949; increasing to
506,200 in 1950 after the Jericho Conference to
annex the West Bank to Jordan.
After the West Bank annexation, 90% of the
Palestinians living there could obtain the Jordanian citizenship excluding
those who went to Jordan after 16 February 1954. According to UNRWA statistics,
the largest number of refugees in all UNRWA five fields is in Jordan as more
than 2 million refugees are registered most of which have full citizenship.
Palestinian refugees in Jordan live in ten
recognized camps: Baqa’ camp, Martyr Azmi al Mufti camp, Irbid camp, Jabal el
Hussein camp, Jerash camp, Hitten camp, Souf camp, Talbieh camp, Zarqa camp, Al
Wehdat camp where UNRWA provides its services. In addition to three unofficial
camps: Al Hassan Camp, Sakhna camp, and Madaba camp where the government
provides services also.
Legal status of the Palestinian refugees in
The legal status of the Palestinian
refugees has evolved through important historical milestones. After the
announcement of annexation of West Bank to Jordan in Jericho Conference in 1950,
90% of refugees obtained the Jordanian citizenship until the Nationality
Acquisition Law was suspended in 16 February 1954. Those refugees practice full
rights as Jordanians and have duties including military service (the right to
work, own property, movement, legal personality, etc.).
Second: Palestinian Refugees in Syria
Since it started in 2011, the Syrian civil
war has left a severe impact on Palestinian refugees in particular as camps
were fully or partially destroyed, thousands were killed or detained, many are
still left for the unknown, and tens of thousands had to seek asylum.
Around 568000 Palestinian refugees are
registered in UNRWA official records living in 12 camps; 9 official camps are Al
Nayrab camp, Jarmana camp, Hama camp, Homs camp, Khan al- Shih camp, Khan
Dannun camp, Deraa camp, Sbeineh camp, and Qabr Essit camp. 3 camps are unofficial:
Latakia camp, Yarmouk camp, and Ein Al Tal camp.
After the Syrian crisis in 2011, the number
of Palestinian refugees in Syria has dropped as 200 thousand fled to nearby and
European countries, 4214 were killed till last year, and
2721 were detained or under enforced disappearance.
Legal status of Palestinians in Syria:
Since the Nakbah when Palestinians had to
move to Syria, the Syrian government have worked to engage them in the
economic, political and social fields through legalizing the Palestinian
presence that guarantees their basic rights including the right to work, the
right to residence and the right to movement. Laws and decrees were issued so
that Palestinians have their full rights and duties except for the right to
candidacy and elections and are treated equally as residents.
Law no. 260 issued on 10 July 1957 is the
cornerstone that regulates Palestinians legal situation and stipulates that "Palestinians
residing in the Syrian Arab Republic, on the date of publication of this law,
are considered as Syrians in origin in all that is stipulated in the laws and
regulations in force, and with the rights of employment, work, trade, and
military service, while retaining their original nationality.” It is noteworthy
that the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees affiliated to the
Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is concerned with following up the issues
of Palestinian refugees in Syria.
Through this law, the Palestinian refugee
in Syria enjoys all civil rights as Syrians including practicing all
professions without restrictions. Except for some rights as the married
Palestinian has the right to ownership for one house only and requires an
approval from the Ministry of Interior. Likewise, he has the right to
membership in syndicates (doctors, lawyers, and engineers…) and has full rights
as other members.
Third: Palestinians in Lebanon
Representing 5% of the Lebanese population,
the Palestinian refugees are 250 thousand distributed among 12 UNRWA-registered
official camps to which UNRWA provides its services: Rashidieh camp, Borj El
Barajneh camp, Shatila camp, Mar Elias camp, Dbayeh camp, Beddawi camp, Nahr
al-Bared camp, and Wavel camp, in addition to many Palestinian gatherings near
Since they moved in, the Palestinian
refugees have been experiencing marginalization and negligence at all levels
ranging from spatial marginalization that forced them to live in overcrowded
camps to economic marginalization restricting their right to work and social
As the country’s economy have collapsed since
2019, Palestinian refugees have almost hit a rock bottom in the light of increasing
rate of unemployment, devaluation of local currency in Lebanon, and the
post-covid-19 crisis with an already-existing deteriorating conditions they
Legal status of Palestinian refugees in
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon can be
classified into three categories:
Palestinians who are registered in both UNRWA and General
Directorate of Political Affairs and Refugees records, representing the
greatest portion of the refugees.
Palestinians who are registered in the records of the
General Directorate of Political Affairs and Refugees only for various reasons.
Palestinians who are unregistered in neither of the
records; those who lack identity papers.
The Palestinian Association for Human
Rights (Witness) affirms in this regard that the Palestinian refugee is
deprived of the legal personality that provides him/her an explicit and
specific definition. With the absence of serious action of the Lebanese government,
the status of the legal personality remains undefined. Although the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue
committee has released the document "A Unified Lebanese Vision for the
Palestinian. Refugees Affairs in Lebanon, it didn’t proceed in legal actions in
terms of laws and decisions.
The following report discusses the rights that the Palestinian refugees are
The Right to work:
According to resolution 189 of the Lebanese
ministry of labor dated 1982 prohibits the Palestinian refugees from practicing
60 professions. A later resolution dated 1983 included all foreigners
prohibiting them from practicing 75 professions. Then the Minister Trad Hamadeh
released a memorandum in 2005 permitting Palestinians born on Lebanese land and
who are officially registered in the records of the Lebanese Ministry of
Interior to work in various professions. However, despite the importance of
this memorandum, it didn’t meet the refugees’ needs. Likewise, the amendments
on labor law weren’t effective as it should be.
The right to adequate property:
With the natural population growth, the
Palestinian refugees population has multiplied since the Nakbah leading to
overcrowded camps. Thus, due to the restrictions on the entrance of
construction materials and the arbitrary security measures of the Lebanese government
against Palestinians, construction
had to expand vertically as no laws authorize the horizontal expansion of
camps. What we can say is that UNRWA didn’t seriously demand for the expansion
of camps and the government didn’t deal with this issue properly.
The right to
Since ever, the right to ownership wasn’t a
problem for Palestinians until 2001 when the Lebanese parliament issued the
resolution 296 that deprived them of the right to ownership under the pretext
of refusing resettlement. The law does not specifically mention Palestinians,
but rather stipulates that nationals of countries recognized (by Lebanon) have
the right to own real estate, provided that this ownership does not conflict
with the principle of refusing settlement enshrined in the constitution. The
second paragraph of article (1) of the resolution 296 explicitly excludes
Palestinians from the right to ownership stating: "It is not permissible to own
any real right for any kind to any person who does not hold a nationality
issued by a recognized country, or for any person if the appropriation is
inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution in terms of refusing
Noting that Lebanon didn’t recognize the
Palestinian Authority until 2005 and it is still not considered a real state,
so Palestinians cannot own properties.
Comparison of legal status of the
After discussing the legal conditions of
Palestinians in the aforementioned countries, we can infer that they live the
worst conditions in Lebanon compared to other places of asylum in terms of
legislations and resolutions that directly affect the Palestinian refugees that
in turn could guarantee their rights. The question now is: Why does Lebanon deals
with Palestinian issues differently than other countries do?
All countries recognize the importance of
treaties and international and regional charters and adhering to them to
respect human rights regardless of differences at all levels. They include Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1951 the Casablanca protocol in 1965.
The situation of Palestinian refugees in
the aforementioned countries (Jordan and Syria) indicates that granting them
their rights -except the political ones- doesn’t mean that they are given
resettlement nor that it may affect the demographic composition in Lebanon. Thus,
the Lebanese treatment of Palestinian refugees is unjustified and the
government should bear responsibility of answering the previous question.
The reality of Palestinian refugees differs
from one country to another, not only in the countries mentioned in this
report, but even in other countries, both foreign and Arab. However, all
Palestinian refugees, wherever they are, and regardless of their situation,
cling to their right to return to their land, and this is guaranteed to them by
Resolution 194 of the United Nations General Assembly.
Accordingly, and after examining the
conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and comparing them with other
countries, Lebanon has a legal and moral obligation towards the Palestinian
refugees, especially since it has no justifications for this policy in dealing
with the Palestinian refugees for more than 7 decades. Therefore, the
Palestinian Association for Human Rights (witness) warns of the negative
repercussions of depriving the Palestinian refugee of his rights, and recommends
Lebanese state shall treat the Palestinian refugees fairly and grant them all
their rights, like other countries do.
Lebanese state to implement the document "A unified Lebanese vision for the
issues of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.”
authorities concerned with the affairs of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to
work on achieving Palestinian human rights.
Civil society institutions, media, and actors to
highlight the human rights aspect of Palestinian refugees, and not limiting
themselves to relief aid despite its importance.
international community to condemn the violations of the Israeli occupation
that have been going on for more than 7 decades, and work to perpetuate the
Palestinian right of return and self-determination.
Association for Human Rights (Witness)
May 15, 2023