The Situation of the Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Annual Report 2011
The annual report issued by the Palestinian Association for Human Rights (Witness) seeks to shed light on the status of Palestinians’ rights in Lebanon. Thus, it summarizes the situation of the Palestinians regarding health, education, housing, security and political developments and concludes with a set of recommendations to the concerned parties. As shown in the annual reports issued by Witness, the rights of the Palestinians in Lebanon are deteriorating significantly. This deterioration, while being negative, is either cumulative or qualitative.
The housing problem has not been addressed aptly and there is no sign that it would be solved in the foreseen future. Thus, the Annual Report 2011 will cast light on the Palestinian refugee camps which have been reduced to random, concrete blocks occupied by a large number of people. Accordingly, and as the Report will show, these camps witness the spread of diseases and house collapses. They are also a fertile ground for social problems triggered by the lack of familial and individual privacy. The new issue regarding the housing problem is Nahr el-Bared crisis which continues for the fifth year with the utterly bad conditions of the camp residents whether in the newly constructed houses or the barracks. Besides tackling some aspects of the suffering in this respect, the Report addresses the health situation which is also declining due to a number of factors discussed in the Report. In general, the health conditions are cumulative and they become more visible in cases of medical emergencies. The education situation, in its turn, is a set of cumulative factors which have been piling up since around 20 years and it is witnessing a dramatic decline despite some positive aspects, especially in the secondary level. The absence of a political frame of reference leaves the camps without real authority except for a few community-based initiatives trying hard to maintain the social fabric of the camps. The absence of such a frame of reference which enjoys genuine authority, together with the dire economic and legal situations, has drowned the Palestinian camps in serious social problems as is the case in Ain el Hilweh camp for example.
There was no initiative on the side of the Lebanese government in 2011 to improve the situation of the Palestinian refugees. Thus, no decision was taken to expand the camps or to amend the property law. Furthermore, doctors, lawyers, pharmacists and engineers were not allowed to practice their profession, and no decision was made to facilitate the freedom of movement for camp residents, especially in the South and Nahr Al-Barid camp. On top of that, the security approach still governs the relation with the Palestinians and the refugee camps.
In addition, the UNRWA services still fall short of meeting the Palestinian needs despite a slow and limited development in some departments, particularly concerning health and scholarships. The UNRWA covers 40 per cent of the hospital bill but this remains less than what is required, not to mention red tape measures which create many problems for the Palestinian patients. Moreover, the UNRWA lacks any fund for emergencies, be them related to housing, health or environmental conditions.
Accordingly, the Report will tackle the demographic situation of the Palestinian camps and gatherings, their social and economic conditions, the right to health between opportunities and challenges, the right to education between theory and practice, the right to housing, the environmental situation, the security situation in the camps and the Palestinian political frame of reference. The Report will conclude with recommendations to the Lebanese government, the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The Lebanese Government
The Lebanese government should comply with its international obligations namely the respect of the Palestinian as a human being. Accordingly, it should seek to amend all regulations which are incompatible with the provisions and stipulations of the International Charter of Human Rights, particularly:
a. Give the Palestinian the right to ownership by amending Law 296/2001.
b. Amend regulations governing liberal professions, particularly medicine, engineering, pharmacy to allow the Palestinians practice these professions in a legal way.
c. Amend the social security law to allow the Palestinian worker to fully benefit from the NSSF allowances like his Lebanese peers.
d. Expand camps to accommodate the growing population.
e. Speed up the trial of Palestinian detainees who have been arrested more than five years without trial, or released by a general amnesty resolution.
The Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC)
a. Utilization of the financial resources received by the LPDC for to enhance the Palestinian situation, especially in Nahr al-Bared camp, besides the automation of the refugees’ documents.
b. The need to include Palestinian members in the LPDC who are experts in the Palestinian issues and capable of following up on pressing issues.
c. The need for extending relations between the LPDC and other Palestinian civil society institutions in order to know the real needs of the Palestinian refugees.
d. The need to gain the support of the current Lebanese government.
e. The need for LPDC’s legal support of the refugees’ issues before the Lebanese state regarding civil, economic and human rights in various fields.
a. The need to increase and enhance the services to the Palestinian refugees in all sectors.
b. The need to determine the priorities of the refugees and work to cover them,
c. The need to create job opportunities for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and reduce reliance on foreign workers.
d. The need to rationalize spending and allow the optimum benefit from available resources.
e. The need to settle the issue of Nahr al-Bared camp by completing all construction packages and securing the needs of the displaced residents till they return to their homes.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
a. The need to work towards the establishment of a Palestinian frame of reference capable of following up on the files of the Palestinian refugees with the Lebanese side.
b. The need to secure sufficient financial resources to support and develop the Red Crescent institutions.
c. The need to support the Palestinian Student Fund financially and politically so it would continue to provide Palestinian students with its services.
d. The need to develop a clear mechanism for the Palestinian social security institution by covering a part of the treatment expenses for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
e. The need to focus on Nahr al-Bared file with the donor countries to complete its reconstruction and secure the return of its displaced residents.
In Beirut, 24/04/2012
Palestinian Association for Human Rights "witness"