Why did the Palestinian refugees from Syria set up a sit-in tent in front of the UNRWA office in Beirut? What are their demands?
(Human Rights Report)
The Palestinian refugees from Syria to Lebanon set up a protest tent on January 10, 2022 in front of the UNRWA office in Beirut. They called it Tent Number (194), which was linked to the international resolution issued by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, bears the number (194), calling for the return of refugees Palestinians to their homes and properties. The protestors unleashed their voice from that tent, seeking to obtain their just demands at any possible cost. This was in protesting against the systematic policies of curtailments by UNRWA, which negatively affected approximately 27,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria. It is noteworthy that the number of Palestinian refugees from Syria to Lebanon has declined over the past years from 100,000 to 27,000 because the difficult humanitarian conditions have forced most of them to migrate outside Lebanon.
UNRWA Director-General visits the sit-in tents:
The Director-General of UNRWA in Lebanon, Claudio Cordone visited the sit-in tent (194) on the first day affirming that the refugees’ demands are right and stated that the responsibility lies on the donor countries’ shoulders on outset evading the responsibility he bears. Without suggesting radical solutions or even showing a positive interaction, instead, firm measures were taken against the protestors including cutting off the electricity in an attempt to put pressure on them to retract their move.
Human rights, political, media and medical delegations visit the sit-in tent:
Several delegations including political, media, medical, and charitable ones visited the sit-in tent to have a vivid picture on the real demands and issues of the protestors, in addition to the visit of human rights delegation from (Witness). During the visit of a delegation from the Palestinian Association for Human Rights (Witness) to the tent (194), representatives of the sit-in confirmed that they would proceed with their protest until their demands are fully achieved, without conceding any of them. They also confirmed that the Palestinian refugee's pursuit of his rights and a dignified life that guarantees the minimum necessities of life never contradicts the right to return. On the contrary, maintaining the humanitarian dignity of the Palestinian refugee reinforces focusing on his efforts to serve the Palestinian issue till achieving his return to his homeland.
The main sufferings of the Palestinian refugees from Syria to Lebanon:
First: Absence of Legal Protection:
Palestinian refugees from Syria to Lebanon suffer from the absence of legal protection, as the Lebanese authorities treat them as foreigners or tourists who must obtain residency to be renewed every six months. They complain about the absence of the UNRWA Legal Protection Department from assuming its responsibility in this regard. This problem is considered one of the most difficult challenges, as refugees live in a state of anxiety and fear of arrest at any moment, as well as the impact of the absence of legal personality on most other rights.
Second: Unjustified Reduction of Basic Services under Difficult Circumstances:
Under the pretext of the large deficit in its operational budget and the threat of the inability to pay the salaries of its employees in the coming months, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has gradually reduced the services it provides to Palestinian refugees in general and Palestinian refugees from Syria to Lebanon in particular.
In this report, we present a summary of the suffering observed by the monitoring and documentation team in (Witness) after a series of field visits:
In the Field of Relief:
The decision to reduce relief aid, and in light of the harsh conditions in Lebanon in general, was the reason for the current protest and the setting up of the tent 194 in front of the UNRWA office in Beirut. The prominent forms of such curtailments were the following:
1.Reducing financial aid from $100 as a shelter allowance every two months to $300 annually, distributed in two phases.
2.Reducing the food allowance to $25 per capita instead of $27.
oAccording to the follow-ups, this amount is not even enough to secure bread for the children.
In the Field of Education:
1.The main problems in the field of education are pertaining with securing the cost of transportation, which exceeds the ability of families.
2.Financial difficulties in securing sufficient stationery for students.
3.Not providing the necessary heating, especially for elementary students, and other requirements.
In The Field of Health:
If the Palestinian refugee from Syria wanted to obtain a referral to receive treatment in a Lebanese hospital, he may have to wait for up to two weeks, during which his health may worsen, and that is until his file is transferred to the UNRWA administration in Syria to go through the administrative procedures. Yet, the value of this assistance rarely exceeds 50%, and the patient has to afford the expenses of the remaining treatment process, which is very expensive with the increasing of the rate of the Lebanese pound against the US dollar.
Third: Conclusions and Demands:
The humanitarian situation of Palestinian refugees from Syria to Lebanon is extremely difficult, starting with the absence of legal personality and not ending with the details of daily life. They do not enjoy legal protection in the full sense of the word. Because of the harsh conditions, their numbers have declined since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, from 100,000 to 27,000, with the majority believed to have emigrated from Lebanon. UNRWA agency bears the whole responsibility pertaining their humanitarian and legal conditions, being compelled to fulfill its moral and legal obligations towards them. Here comes the sit-in in front of the UNRWA office by their representees to express the necessity for an urgent and sustainable assistance for this group of the Palestinian refugees.
In the light of the severe conditions, the Palestinian association for human rights asks for the following:
1.UNRWA to consider Lebanon as a disaster area that will have a severe impact on the Palestinian refugees directly, which entails the development of a comprehensive and urgent emergency relief plan that meets the basic needs of Palestinian refugees, including Palestinian refugees from Syria to Lebanon.
2.The necessity of securing the needed treatment and medication for patients without delay or stall in administrative transactions, and finding a dynamic mechanism for the issue of medical transfers.
3.Securing school needs including stationery and others, in addition to covering the expenses of transportation for all students.
4.Immediate retract of the decision concerning the decrease in financial and relief aid for the Palestinian refugees from Syria and endeavor to enhance it instead.
5.Working on benefiting from the available financial resources, so-called "fresh money”, and improving the rate of patient coverage in private and government hospitals.
Beirut in 20/1/2022
Palestinian Association for Human Rights