Reports & Researches

Basic Information about the Palestinian refugees In Lebanon - 2009

The Palestinian Association for Human Rights (Witness)
Basic Information about the Palestinian refugees In Lebanon - 2009
The information stated in this report summarizes the reality of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in its various aspects, the legal, social, economic, health and educational.

Basic information about the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

The legal frame of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon:
• According to Lebanese law, the Palestinian refugee is a special kind of foreigner.
• Travel documents that allow Palestinian refugees to leave Lebanon are given to them on special conditions.
• The Palestinian refugees are denied the right to own property according to decree no. 296 issued in 2001.
• The Palestinian refugee enjoys the right of residency.
• According to Lebanese law, the Palestinians don't have the right to form associations except when only 20% of their founding members are Palestinians.  And there are Lebanese associations working in Palestinian circles.
• The Palestinian enjoys freedom of movement, yet there are restrictions on him, especially in southern camps.
• The Lebanese law denies, on a large scale, the Palestinian the right to work because there are a number of occupations that are linked to syndicates and unions and are regulated by laws issued by the Lebanese parliament.
• The Palestinian doesn't enjoy judicial assistance enjoyed by those Lebanese that cannot afford the expenses of lawyers and the legal proceedings.

Demographic indications:
• The number of Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA until the end of  June 2008 is 416608, increasing by 1.4% .
• According to people's committees, associations and societies, the number of Palestinians not registered with UNRWA is 30,000.
• The number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon that lack identity papers is 4,000-5000.
• Thus the total number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is about 450000.
• However, field estimates assess the number of Palestinian refugees to be no more than 300,000.

Geographic distribution:
1. The Palestinian refugees essentially live in camps where their ratio is estimated at 53% of the total number of refugees.  The rest live either in gatherings or in the cities.
2. The number of Palestinian camps in Lebanon so far is 12 camps, distributed between Beirut, the north, the south and the Bekaa. 
3. Three of these camps were demolished: al-Nabatiyeh camp in 1974, the tel al-Zaatar camp in l967 and at that same time Jisr al-Basha camp was demolished.
4. There are more than 50 gatherings of Palestinian refugees spread from the far south of Lebanon to its far north.
5. The Palestinian camps were established during the first years of seeking refuge, starting in 1948.
6. The areas of the camps remained the same since their establishment and until this year.

The economic and social reality:
• Basically, the party that offers services to Palestinian refugees is the UNRWA agency of the United Nations, in addition to charitable societies and institutions.  The various institutions of the Lebanese government offer only few services to the Palestinian refugees.
• The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live under wretched social and economic conditions, especially in camps and gatherings.
• There is immense crowdedness of inhabitants in the camps.
• The average Palestinian family is estimated to be composed of five members living in a house that has an area that doesn't exceed 50 square meters.
• The roofs of houses in the camps are extremely close as not to allow the sun rays to enter many of the houses.
• Most of Lebanon's camps, especially those in the Lebanese south, are subject to security blockades, where the Lebanese army places search points at their entrances and military garrisons at their borders.
• There are garbage dumps at the camps' entrances, many of them close to water wells, or to UNRWA schools and clinics.
• There are electricity grids in the midst of populated areas and above the entrances of schools crowded with students.
• There are no entertainment centers and public parks, the fact that adds to psychological pressures and increases the chances of delinquency.
• There are no sidewalks at the side of camps' "streets", the fact that leads to traffic congestion.
o Above all of that, there are plans to build highways that threaten more than one camp.  This includes 350 houses in the Bourj al-Barajneh camp, which causes 700 families to be once more subject to expulsion.
o There is a highway project in the area of Tyre in the south that threatens the al-Bus camp and divides it into two isolated parts.
o There is the project of the Arabic highway (al-Salam) that cuts through the Shabriha gathering and threatens 40 houses with removal, which causes 200 refugees to be subject to expulsion.
• The unemployment rate among those able to work rises to the level of 39%.
• Job opportunities are unavailable to hundreds or rather to thousands of young men because of the laws and regulations related to the employment of foreigners, and also because of the general economic conditions in the country.

The educational reality:
• The main party that looks after the educational and instructional aspects of the Palestinian refugees is the UNRWA agency.
• The ratio of Palestinian students in public schools doesn't exceed 10% at best.
• The rate of those who successfully pass exams is declining year after year.  The biggest decline was this year, where the rate of those who passed the official exams for the 9th grade was 42%, while it was last year (2005-2006) 54%, meaning that there is a drop of 12%.
• The results of the official exams in the final year of the secondary level were very high and reached this year 97%.
• There is an educational inflation in these results, for the number of students in the first year secondary is more than 5000 students, while the number of students in the third year secondary doesn't exceed 700 students.
• The rates of dropping out of school are high, especially at the intermediate level, and may reach 19%.  And that is due to various reasons, the most prominent of which is the economic one.
• The classes in UNRWA schools are relatively crowded, for there are 35 students in each.
• The ratio of students in UNRWA schools is 10.6% of the total number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which is a low ratio when compared to that of Lebanese students which reaches 23% of the total number of the Lebanese inhabitants of Lebanon.
• UNRWA applies the educational programs of the Lebanese state.  These programs don't take into consideration the peculiarity of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and their political cause; as they don't teach the history and geography of Palestine except to a very narrow extent, and that depends on the individual effort of some teachers.
• In general, the Palestinian refugees dismiss the idea of going to private schools because of their high tuition fees that are enormous.
• The secondary level students who pass their exams face a clear difficulty in joining Lebanese universities, whether private or public.
• The students who graduate from universities don't find suitable job opportunities; so they resort to emigrating in order to realize their ambitions and aspirations.  Otherwise, they work in jobs other than their specialty, or face unemployment…

The health reality:
• UNRWA runs 28 centers of comprehensive care, family planning, and care for the mother and child, until the end of 2008.
• There are 24 centers for combating diabetes and hypertension, 16 centers for dental care, 15 centers function as laboratories, and only 10 centers for heart diseases, gynecology, and eye diseases.
• Statistics show that there are 0.87% of doctors for every 10,000 persons.  While the relevant international laws stipulate that there should be one doctor for every thousand individuals.  This situation forces each doctor to examine 100 patients a day, which affects negatively his performance.
• Many diseases are spread throughout the camps, such as hypertension, heart diseases and diabetes.  These are essentially due to the pressure suffered by the inhabitants because of the economic, social, and demographic circumstances.
• Thalassemia is widespread in some camps, especially in Bourj al-Shemali camp, which is known as the Thalassemia camp.
• The cost of medical care in Lebanon is very high.  And the fact that the Palestinian refugee doesn't benefit from state hospitals affects the patient's health.
• UNRWA has contracts with specific hospitals that are classified as being of the third and fourth degrees, and that affects the health of the patients.  Furthermore, there are diseases that are not covered by UNRWA, and that exposes the patient's life to danger.

• Many patients are obliged to look for financial help from charitable organizations, mosques, or philanthropists; and these attempts aren't always successful.

All the numbers in this summary come from: the UNRWA agency, a study by the "Witness" Association for Human Rights: the social, economic and health indications of the society of Palestinian refugees, January 2007.  There is another study of "Witness" about the reality of the Palestinian student between opportunities and challenges, June 2006, and the field study conducted by the Zaitouna center of studies, 2006.