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Refugees

 
Human Rights Dilemma of the Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
By: Souheil Al-Natour*
February 15, 2007
 

Introduction

This study aims to expose some aspects of the dilemma of the Palestinians who have been forced to take refuge in Lebanon since the year 1948. Their experience differs greatly from that of Palestinian refugees in other countries of exile. If the common trait of all Palestinian refugees is the loss of their national homeland and their property, due to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and its policy of ethnic cleansing, the tribulations and experiences of the refugees in Lebanon are more pronounced than those of other Palestinian refugees-especially due to the tension between the refugees and the Lebanese authorities. While this tension has occasionally risen to the surface, it has generally remained implicit and concealed.

The difficulties of coexistence between these two segments of he Arab people-the afflicted Palestinians and their Lebanese hosts-has taken a unique form. These tribulations have generated many positive interactions, from fraternal solidarity, to common distribution of wealth, mutual dedication to the right of return, joint struggle against the Israeli occupation forces that have remained in Lebanon for more than two decades, etc. However this interaction has also provoked negative attitudes and suspicion among some Lebanese towards the Palestinians refugees. These attitudes have led to the rejection of the Palestinians, sometimes from a position of confessional sectarianism. In addition, they have generated human rights violations and consolidated the marginalization of the Palestinian community. Finally, the tension between the two parts has led to legal and sometimes even military confrontations.

Distribution of Palestinians in Lebanon

The first period of the refuge witnessed widespread scattering of he Palestinians refugees throughout southern Lebanon and western Bekaa valley, as well as the arrival of the refugees in capital city, Beirut. It was not long before the administration introduced official procedures for dealing with refugees and UNRWA began representing the refugees in an effort to increase the amount of assistance being provided. The Palestinians took refuge in numerous camps, stretching from the north of the country to the south. With the passing of time, the number of refugees increased and a large percentage of them moved out of the camps, many leaving Lebanon altogether. This leaves us with a picture of the residential distribution of Palestinians in Lebanon in 12 official camps, according to UNRWA :


Camp Registered Refugees
1 Mar Elias 614
2 Burj al-Barajneh 15508
3 Dbayeh 4001
4 Shatila 8229
5 Ein el-Helweh 45148
6 Mie wa Mie 4500
7 Al-Bass 9318
8 Rashidieh 25822
9 Burj al-Shemali 18676
10 Nahr el-Bered 30481
11 Al-Bedawi 15662
12 Wavel (Al-Jalil camp in the Bekaa) 7575

Refugees from the destroyed Nabatieh and Dekwaneh (Tel Al-Zaatar) Camps 16297
Other registered refugees living in Camps 10751
Inside the Camps 212581
Outside the Camps 188515
Total 401096

There are many other concentrations of Palestinians in Lebanon, Such as Jall All-Bahr, Al-Qasmieh, Sa'ad Nael, etc, in addition to city residents not officially recognized by UNRWA. These residents are calculated either as living outside of the camps or as registered with their families in one of the old camps.

But the Palestinian presence in Lebanon differs greatly from these simple base statistics. Practically, the Palestinians fall into three categories:

First:
Those who submitted to the census in the beginning of the 1950s and registered with UNRWA, the Lebanese General Security Forces, and the Department of the Palestinian Refugee Affairs. These individuals have the right to obtain a 'travel document' (for a period of five years) that makes it possible for them to move around within Lebanon and to travel and return to Lebanon.

1. UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), map of the distribution of registered refugees, to date 20Sep 2005-Head Office-Gaza.

Second:
The group of Palestinian that did not complete the census, despite their presence in Lebanon at the time. Their situation was settled by a decision of the Minister of interior (Number 136,1969) through which they were entitled to obtain 'laissez-passer' and are registered with General Security Registry and the Department of Refugee Affairs. They do not benefit from UNRWA services.

Third:
Several hundreds of Palestinians who were either 1) forced to take refuge in Lebanon after the war of June 1967,2) deported from the occupied territories, 3) liberated from Israeli prisons, or 4) the families of the PLO fighters who left Lebanon in 1982. This group does not posses permanent papers and is therefore unable to travel outside of Lebanon or to move freely within the country (estimated up to 4000 persons).

Political-economic factors govern the estimation of the number of refugees. Some Lebanese authorities inflate the numbers by as much as 600,000 in order to demonstrate that Lebanon endures a heavy burden- and therefore to justify its efforts to request the transfer of the Palestinians to other countries. In fact, however, the number of Palestinians has gradually diminished, especially if we take into consideration the issue of the "re-instatement" of Lebanese nationality to nearly 35000 refugees from seven villages, according to the latest naturalization law (Act 5247, 20 June 1994). Also another decision affecting the Legal position of Palestinians in Lebanon was decree no. 478 issued by the Lebanese Minister of the interior on 23 September 1995. This act forbade the return to Lebanon of Palestinian refugees presently outside of the country, even if they carry travel permits issued by the Lebanese General security Directorate, unless they obtain a return permit (visa). However, the administrative application did not generally grant this permit and nearly 100,000 Palestinians found themselves de facto exiled from Lebanon due to this decision, most of them were erased from the official Lebanese registry.

We can obtain a more accurate estimate of the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon based on UNRWA statistics by taking into account the number of refugees that 1) have obtained Lebanese citizenship and 2) were prevented from returning to Lebanon. Such an estimate recognizes that the number of Palestinian refugees resident in Lebanon is closer to 300,000 than the officially proclaimed number of 400,000.

The Palestinian Legal Situation in Lebanon

There is no doubt that the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have a special legal status. As individuals, the law treats them as foreigners subject to Lebanese sovereignty because they do not posses Lebanese citizenship. As a community possessing Palestinian national identity, they are treated according to the particularity of their cause. The Lebanese state, out of its sovereignty, refused to accept to introduce special laws recognizing the status of Palestinians as a community or a minority. In fact, it generally treats them as individuals, and only rarely as a community protected by Arab agreements and international declarations.

First: Legal Sources

The primary sources for defining the legal position of Palestinian in Lebanon are international conventions officially recognized by Lebanon. Theoretically, these conventions are considered obligatory and local laws are subject to their jurisdiction. In reality, however, the practice of the Lebanese government is often in direct opposition to these conventions. Among these conventions are:

1) The International Declaration of Human Rights, issued on 10 December 1948.
2) The International covenant on Civil and Political Rights, issued on 16 December 1966.
3) The International Covenant on Economic, Social, Cultural Rights, issued on 16 December 1966.

Second: Individual Rights

Based on the Principle of sovereignty, the Lebanese authorities issued decisions and laws that they found appropriate for dealing with the presence of Palestinian refugees. From the beginning, the Lebanese authorities allowed the Palestinians to concentrate in only a very limited number of Camps and rejected in Al-Taif agreement any reference that would provide the Palestinians with implantation (Tawteen). It also refused to permit the establishment of a camp in the Al-Quri'aa district for the Palestinians displaced in the middle of 1994. The Lebanese government established the Department of Palestinian Refugee Affairs in the Ministry of the interior and issued decree 927 (31 March 1959), grating it certain powers in relation to individual Palestinian refugees. The Department has the power to count the refugees, maintain their registration files, grant them identification documents, and accept application for travel permits free of charge. Later, it imposed fees and then increased the hinders by passing Order 478 (22 September 1995), which required that Palestinian refugees outside of Lebanon obtain a return visa in order to re-enter the country. This order introduced further difficulties on the right of Palestinian refugees to travel to and from Lebanon. This ruling was abolished after five years.

It has always been the position of the Lebanese authorities to treat the Palestinians as foreigners with respect to the right to work and social security. This position is a fundamental aspect of the negative forms of discrimination that Palestinians have faced since they became refugees.

Moreover, the right to education of Palestinians have faced obstacles to, since they became refugees, no more than 10% of the studying seats in official schools were permitted to foteigners. This deprives the refugees of appropriate educational opportunities in addition to the laws affecting their right to health.

The practices of the Lebanese authorities with respect to the Palestinians are discriminatory in many fields mainly including

1) The Right of Real Estate Ownership:

The question of foreign owner ship of national territories is a sensitive matter. Lebanese law imposed harsh restrictions on the size of foreign ownership. On 4 January 1969, the cabinet adopted Decree 11614, based on the proposal of the Minister of finance, which made foreign ownership of land conditional upon the acquisition of a license. Exempted from the license fee is the ownership of land not to exceed 5,000 square meters in the Beirut district. The construction should be completed within five years of registering with the land register. Foreign companies, on the other hand, are allowed to own 10,000 square meters. To register, the foreigner pays 10% more fees than the Lebanese. This law was amended to create equality between Lebanese and foreigners regarding the license fees only.

A recent amendment to the above decree was introduced in 5/4/2001 by the law 296, which canceled in practice all the rights of Palestinians to real estate property. The law says:" It is not permissible to have any real estate property, by any person who is not carrying a nationality from a recognized state, or by any person if the property is contradictory with the constitutional precepts concerning the rejection of (Palestinian) (Tawteen).

This law led to forbid the Palestinians from the acquisition of their own houses, it is Known that 5000 families bought apartments on installments, which made them unable to register before the termination of pay, add to that the impossibility to register any real estate ownership previously registered by the old decree, inherited by a Palestinian. The problem is still present today by exempting Palestinians negatively, an exception from all foreigners.

2) The Economic Situation of Palestinians and their Right to Work and to Social Security:

With the onset of the 1990s, the Palestinians in Lebanon did not enjoy the same civil and social rights as Lebanese citizens. The state introduced conditions that all government employees must be Lebanese citizens who have been naturalized for at least ten years. This deprived Palestinians of employment in any official capacity in any governmental organizations.

Theoretically this applied to all. In actuality, however, some Palestinians were qualified to work in private associations. Yet there emerged a labor law that conditioned employment in a private association on the acquisition of special authorization from the ministry of labor. This law induces the directors of association to refuse work to Palestinians. In addition, these directors generally accepted to hire some Palestinian workers because they have good qualifications and paid less than the Lebanese with no social security. Due to this, most of the resources of the Palestinians in Lebanon are founded upon exhausting vocational work that the workers of Lebanon often wish to avoid-especially in the fields of construction, agriculture (spraying insecticide) and small, workshops.

Similarly, UNRWA is providing education and vocational training to the youth of Palestinians, especially in the Siblin Institute, but without ensuring them future job in Lebanon. Some Palestinians have managed to enter the professions as teachers, administrators, or employees in the health section of UNRWA. However, there are no more than 3000 Palestinians employed in this international Agency.

Due to this, the budgets of financial resources come from opportunities created by the economic apparatuses of the PLO (the societies of the General Union of Palestinian Trade Unions). Others come from the employment in the vital apparatuses of the Palestinian factions, whether under the banner of the PLO or outside of it, including the information, administrative, political, and security apparatuses.

1) As the increase of the number of Palestinians continues without a broadening of employment opportunities, the already high levels of Palestinians unemployment will witness a steady increase.

2) Prior to the civil war, the broad availability of employment opportunities helped to limit the level of Palestinian unemployment. Since that time, however, these opportunities have been undermined by the persistent civil war in Lebanon.

3) The Development after the Al-Taif Agreement eliminated the role of the militias in Lebanon. The Lebanese government faced this Problem by taking responsibility for the supervising one side of the problem while neglecting the other. On the one hand, the government established a program to absorb the capacities of Lebanese youth who faced unemployment after the dissolution of the militias by incorporating the majority of them into the security apparatuses (army, police, etc.). This enabled them to play a special role in the development of Lebanese society. However, the government confronted the problem without implementing a true social and economic solution, thus leaving itself with an explosive burden to face. On the other hand, the Lebanese government did not take any efforts to absorb the capacities of Palestinians youth in Lebanon, as it did to their Lebanese brothers. The state refused to incorporate Palestinian fighters and there existed no substitute authority capable of solving their Problem. Further, the PLO did not establish any guidelines or projects to empower the Palestinian youth, to facilitate their adjustment to the post-war situation in Lebanon, or to assist them in transitioning to new roles in the rapidly developing economic conditions in Lebanon. This drove a large number of Palestinian youth to unemployment, adding to already dangerous levels of unemployment within Palestinian society in Lebanon.

Adding to this economic situation characterized by unsustainable pressure, a number of Palestinians and their families to Lebanon after leaving or being forced to leave the Gulf States after the upheavals and offenses that resulted from the second Gulf War. At the same time, the PLO faced enormous decreases in funding that led to a retreat in the levels of support that it provided to Palestinians in Lebanon. Together, these changes brought appalling social consequences.

4) The issue of Palestinian displacement also had economic effects. If we understand that most families had lost their fathers or providers due to martyrdom or for other reasons associated either the war, it becomes clear just how violently the question of the families of martyrs, the disabled, imposed itself on Palestinian society. At its peak, this issue drove many families to seek social assistance. And there was no opportunity for these Palestinian families to benefit from the abundant aid that the Lebanese state provided because it did not consider them Lebanese citizens. Therefore, the burden that these families faced remained oppressive and continued to rest on their own backs.

The most dangerous problem facing Palestinians in Lebanon is unemployment. A number of issues play an important role in intensifying the already difficult crisis. Among the issues that have had negative effects are:

a) Cutbacks in all of forms of support and provisions from UNRWA.

b) The PLO and the Palestinian forces found themselves in a number of predicaments. The PLO and the Palestinian forces are living through the same crisis that all Palestinians are facing. They have been forced to curtail the services that they provide, which has devastated all Palestinian economic and social infrastructure. But each of these groups differs over where to begin and how to organize the restoration of the Palestinian infrastructure. While it is impossible to observe each experience in all specifying, we can note a number of trends in order to draw a general conclusion. The persistent lack of employment over time has produced forms of social-economic association that are highly intertwined and complex. In response to appeals by the fedayeen (guerilla) organizations to defend the revolution, most Palestinian men abandoned the work that they had pursued prior to 1975. They were embraced by the open arms of the revolution and moved directly from the labor market into the ranks of the factions and their association. If they were able to live in complete independence from the conditions of the economic market, it was because they depended on funds from contributions and continuing support of the organizations that they joined. This prevented the formation of a general crisis of unemployment. They were able to support their families by carrying out duties proper to the situation of the market. However, the end of the war brought about a general increase in unemployment, made even more difficult by a catastrophe still affecting the Palestinian community today.

5) Projects: Several plans were introduced with the goal providing social support. It is clear that many have closed their doors. In addition, the plans that remained alive after 1982 have been practically eliminated along with the aspiration to establish new projects. The opportunities for incorporating those devoid of work have either been closed or remain too few to absorb the increasing number of Palestinian families in need. Add the crisis in Palestine after the embargo imposed on the economy of the Palestinian Authority after the election of Hamas in 2006 which led all financial support to the refugees inside and outside Palestine.

The Current Situation of Palestinian labor in Lebanon

1) According to Lebanese law, Palestinian refugees are considered foreigners in Lebanon. Therefore, the law regulating foreign labor applies to them. Despite the passage of over fifty seven years since they first took refuge in Lebanon, Palestinians have not been granted an exception as a community with a special situation. In fact, the laws to which they are subject necessitate that they obtain a special work permit.

Article 4 (penalties section) of the labor law (4May 1968), in accordance with Ordnance 9816, states that:" The Penalty for he who employs a foreigner, under all labor contract or a manufacturing license, without prior approval or a work permit issued by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (currently the Ministry of Labor), will be fine. for each day that the foreigner is employed." naturally, this creates a system in which associations and corporations do not hire Palestinian laborers and employees.

As a result of connections that had been established by that time between PLO and the Lebanese authorities, Palestinians laborers were given an oral promise that if they were arrested by the Lebanese authorities that they would merely receive a warning for the first time but if they repeat to work without permit they will be punished.

2) Since the Israeli invasion of Beirut and the expulsion of the PLO, the Ministry of labor has published a series of negative decisions concerning Palestinian labor in Lebanon.

A- On 18 December 1982, Minister Dr. Adnan Mrueh published Ordinance 189/1, which reserved a number of occupations for Lebanese citizens. It prohibited foreigners from engaging in all forms of administrative and financial employment, specifically the following: director, assistant director, manager, financial secretary, accountant, secretary general, clerk in charge of the deposits, computer employment, protection, warden, guard, warehouse director, sales, money exchange, jeweler, laboratory work, barber, electrical and glass installation, health equipment, mechanics, and industrial employment.

Among the owners of capital, it forbad foreigners from engaging in trade, specifically: general trade, import and export, commissions and commercial agencies, as well as any form of trade in prepared clothing, capital, jewelry, gold, gems, other precious stones, cars (and related goods), and houses.

B- On 11 January 1993, Minister Abdullah Al-Amin also published a decree (Ordinance 3/1) limiting several occupations to Lebanese citizens and excluding foreigners. This decree repeated the list of occupations hat appeared in the ordinance of Dr.Mrueh, and added the following: teaching in the elementary, intermediate, and secondary levels (except the teaching of languages when necessary), engineering, waiters, and driving taxis and private cars.

Restrictions upon the owners of capital: auditing, contracting, the production of shoes, clothing furniture, or sweets, printing, publishing, distribution, the production of building materials, barbers, and the rebuilding of cars (mechanics, glass installation, furnishing, and electricity).

C– On 18 December 1995, Minister Asad Hardan published Ordinance 1\621 repeating what was specified for laborers and the owners of capital in the decree of minister Al-Amin. The difference between the ordinances of Ministers Al-Amin and Hardan and that Dr. Mrueh is the fact that the latter was extremely mild in terms of the number of occupations prohibited and that it allowed the possibility of obtaining work permits for prohibited occupations, as mentioned above. After that time, however, this practice was forbidden by the other ministers. In addition, Minister Hardan added several occupations to the list of restrictions: construction and its derivatives (except the installation of electricity, medical equipments, and glass – which had already been restricted), agricultural employment, tanning and leather, excavation, carpet weaving, the production of metals, employment as beauticians, dry nurses, nurses, servants, and cooks, and the cleaning and oiling of cars.

On the other hand, the decrees of Ministers Al-Amin and Hardan stipulate limited exceptions to these regulations under specific conditions. Foreigners can be exempted from the law if they meet the conditions mentioned in Article 8 of Ordinance 1756 (Organization of Foreign Labor). First, a set of conditions exempted those foreigners: 1) living in Lebanon since birth; 2) born to a Lebanese mother or a family with Lebanese roots; or 3) married to a Lebanese woman for at least one year. Second, the ordinance defined a number of conditions for exempting foreigners who have experience in occupations that no Lebanese citizens practice. These occupations include for example, translation to and from rare foreign languages (like Hebrew) and languages that are not common in Lebanon or highly specialized medical professions for which there is a need in Lebanon. IN these cases, the jobs and their conditions must be advertised in the newspapers for at least three days before a foreigner can be hired. In addition, any association that wishes to hire a foreigner must already employ at least three Lebanese citizens before the foreigner can begin his work. In practice, this leads to the abolition of the above-mentioned exceptions or, in the best analysis, makes it very rare that anyone can benefit from them.

Practically, a broad segment if Palestinian workers are employed in daily agricultural work, construction, traveling sales, mechanical work, repair and workshops, and as beauticians. Another segment works in a number of occupations, such as teachers in private schools, and in rare cases as secretaries and computer operators in companies and offices. Finally, a third segment of the Palestinian population—mostly woman—is employed to provide services in private homes and associations.

Low services jobs are not included in the Lebanese labor law. No legal authority prohibits them and there are no penalties for those who employ foreigners in these occupations. In addition, the law does not require a permit for some agricultural workers. However, the condition in these sectors are the nadir of oppression: long work hours (generally not less than 12 hours a day), lack of any form of social security, compensation, or vacation.

3) Occupations Unions:

A – The Lawyers' Ordre: The conditions for pursuing employment as a lawyer were laid down by ordinance 8\70 ( 11 March 1980) and its subsequent modifications. It established five conditions for joining the Lawyers's Union: "In order to practice the profession of law, one must meet the following conditions: first—be Lebanese citizen for at least ten years…"

B – Medical Doctors' Union: All medical occupations in Lebanon, with the exception of dentistry, are governed under executive law by Ordinance 1659 (December 1979). This law permits non- Lebanese to practice medicine in Lebanon based on the principle of reciprocity: if a country accepts Lebanese citizens in its medical unions that country's citizens will be accepted into the Lebanese Medical Doctor's Union. However, because the Palestinians do not have a state of their own, it is not in their power to apply this principle. They are therefore denied the possibility of working as doctors in Lebanon.

C – Pharmacist's Union: A law passed on 21 October 1950 governs the practice of pharmacy in Lebanon. This law imposes on non-Lebanese a series of conditions for practicing pharmacy, different for citizens of Arab states than it is for non-Arabs. It establishes two cases in which foreigners can work as pharmacists: if they receive special permission or if they are from a country that applies the principle of mutual reciprocity. This creates a situation in which Palestinians are forbidden the right to pursue and practice pharmacy in Lebanon territory.

D – Engineers' Union: A law passed on 22 January 1951 governs this union and establishes the conditions for foreign membership – again differentiating between citizens of Arab states and non-Arab states. This law creates an abundance of conditions for foreign membership, including for example, "if the law of the country in question allows membership of Lebanese engineers" (Article 4, Line 2). Again Palestinian are not able to apply this principle.

4) Several studies demonstrate that 0.14% of the Palestinian labor force has achieved the right to work by obtaining an official permit. In addition, 1.03% of the Palestinian labor force works for UNRWA as employees, teachers, doctors, and drivers (2450 employees). A further 3.5% work in jobs that do not requires a permit, such as working in agriculture , raising livestock, carrying out a few small occupations in the refugee camps, and serving as employees of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) (around 600). That brings the total to roughly 5% of the entire Palestinian labor force. As a result, there is a trend among Palestinian youth, especially males, to search for work outside of Lebanon in order to support themselves and their families.

The following chart reveals the number of official work permits issued each year, according to statistics compiled by the Lebanese Ministry of Labor. In reading this chart, we must keep in mind that the number of Palestinians in Lebanon is roughly 400,000 and that the labor force consists of around 235,000.


Year Number
of Permits
Year Number
of Permits
Year Number
of Permits
1968 2448 1973 1850 1993 327
1969 2326 1977 207 1994 350
1970 1826 1978 312 1995 354
1971 1990 1979 284 1996 281
1972 866 1992 193 1997 460

5) Another problem facing Palestinian workers is the lack of social security. According to paragraph 3 clause 2 of Article 9 of the Social Security Law: " On the basis of this law, foreigners that work in Lebanon territory do not benefit from any or all forms of social security, except on condition that the country to which they belong treats Lebanese citizens according to the principle of reciprocity in the field of social security. In this case, we can note that prior to the occupation of their land, Palestinians were subject to the British Mandate, which established special laws for Palestine. On 15 February 1965, the Lebanese Social Security Treasury published a decision (Number 89) requesting the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to express its opinion on the legal process that the Treasury should adopt regarding benefits to Palestinian laborers in the form of family compensation. The Legal and Advisory Board of the Ministry of Justice replied with decision Number 667\3 (14 December 1966), rejecting on the legal grounds the right of Palestinian workers to benefit from social security in the section of family compensation. In its decision, the Board explained that: "It is unlikely that there had been a "Palestinian Authority", before the outbreak of the war of 1948 with a legal system in place did treat Lebanese with equivalence regarding social security.

The Lebanese economy is almost completely closed to Palestinians. This existing trend has coincided for an extended time with four other negative developments: 1) a contraction of employment, free services, and assistance provided by the PLO and the resistance; 2) a decrease in the assistance and services provided by UNRWA; 3) a decrease in aid provided by non-governmental organization (NGOs), states, and foreign governments that consider the struggle in Lebanon to have ended; and 4) the collapse after the Gulf War of both public and private funding from

Palestinians working in the Gulf. The most dangerous of these developments, without a doubt, is the reduction of the number of employees and services provided by the PLO. These reductions affect a large number of people and demonstrate the failure of the PLO to implement any national project to re-empower its demobilized fighters or to generate income for them and their families.

The effects of the changes are not surprising. According to one director of an NGO, nearly 60% of all Palestinians in Lebanon live under the poverty line, as defined by the United Nations.

A new Lebanese Labor Minster Trad Hamade adopted a resolution, mentioned in memorandum number 1/67 dated 27/6/2005, starting the exception of Palestinian refugees registered in Lebanon "from the ruling of the first Article of decree 1/79 dated 2/6/2005 (regarding the work of foreigners).Although the resolution gave the Palestinian workers the opportunity to work in specific domains like company employee, accountant, building janitor and such; it did not change the current employment potential of the qualified Palestinian to work in liberal professions; those Palestinians who graduated from universities with degrees in fields that have orders that any practitioner has to adhere to in order to work in the domain. And the respective statutes specifically require the applicants to having had the Lebanese nationality for at least ten years. There are 21 such orders.

- The Palestinians eligible to benefit from the new decree are still required to get a work permit from the ministry, and pay its fees.

- The decree did not affect the discrimination practiced against Palestinian refugees through the compulsory paid adherence to social security, whose benefits are withheld in the absence of reciprocity. Since Lebanon did not recognize the State of Palestine and exchange ambassadors with it; and since the judiciary standards of the Palestinian British-colonial period of pre-1948 guarantees for the Arabs and the Lebanese among them, were not deemed satisfactory; hence the unfulfilled reciprocity condition still stands in the way of normalizing the situation of Palestinians in the Lebanese social security system.

- Some see that the resolution is set to raise the Palestinian issue in Lebanon, as another factor of the pressures to implement UN resolution 1559 inasmuch as it concerns refugee camps and their security/ arms through the suggestion that it will help alleviate and encompass the Palestinian human suffering in return for disarmament. But this issue is controversial par excellence as each aspect of it lends itself to separate and intertwined interacting factors that don’t promise with a solution any time soon. And the risk involved in trying to relate between the two issues pushes towards what the enemies of Lebanon and Palestine consider an explosive issue that helps in giving the Palestinians an even more negative role, as some politicians have done many a time. And that has turned life in the refugee camps of the worst and meanest under the pretence that resolving the humanitarian issue would lead Palestinians to hold on to Lebanon and settle in it as an alternative to their homeland. But this calculated usage does not fool anyone. On the contrary, the media has pointed to the need to deal with the issue of refugees without “lies and hypocrisy as the Palestinians have been through the worst without social services, work opportunities, and without safety and stability. Several camps have in addition been turned into closed areas, where wanted people thrive, carrying the blame for crimes committed in different areas of Lebanon.”

Few questions the authority of the minister in issuing the decree, but some have raised the issue of the timing wondering why it was issued during the last days of the ministry, usually reserved for the settling of urgent matters. But although some newspapers said that the Minister had signed the decree in 3/6/2005 and postponed announcing it to better study its repercussions, what is clear from the consequences is that such a debate is everybody’s right and not exclusive to some committees. The hope to succeed in carrying on with the decree was rather enhanced with the new ministry that International and regional pressures regarding violations of the human rights of Palestinians in Lebanon undoubtedly had a role in the urge to remove the stigma from Lebanon’s reputation and replace it with a more positive one also helps establish the right to work on Lebanese territories.

Many Palestinians see that the struggles of societies and organizations especially the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine that carried forth the social, economical and humanitarian Palestinian needs for years. We can add here that the factor is the fact that Minister Trad Hamade is known for his affiliation with Hezbollah which has always advocated the rights of Palestinians in Lebanon.

The rather positive atmosphere of the recent meetings between Lebanese and Palestinian leaders manifesting through high ranking visits of Palestinian leaders to Lebanon; the meeting of Abu Mazen with Lebanese Prime Minister during the Brazil summit; the consultation and will to cooperate in order to resolve the demands of working, and property rights and construction needs; paving the way for establishing a new kind of relationship between the two people. Technically, the resolution can be the manifestation of an answer to the request presented in two memorandums, one from PLO, and the other from the Democratic Front to promote the bilateral relations after the re-opening of PLO office in Beirut May 2006.

But Palestinians are practically skeptical after the deterioration between the Lebanese political parties lately.

1- the decree objectively presented the need for it to be pursued in all the issues related to working in the private sector and the need to amend and rectify obstacles in the programs applied in the social security. The Palestinians are distinguished through this decree and exempted from the need for a prior permit from the Minister to practice a non-prohibited job, and the fees of the permit are lower than those any foreigner has to pay.

2- Attempt to organize the field of work: The market need to use the Palestinian labor came as part of efforts to fill the gap produced by massive exit of Syrian workers. The minister’s decision comes after he accomplished a new Lebanon-Syrian organizational labor agreement, and another Egyptian-Lebanese one. The core of the matter is to expand this arrangement to all foreign labor.

3- The Palestinians always called for the implementation of the Casablanca Protocol of 1965 signed between Arab countries that committed these countries to treat Palestinian refugees on the same footing as their own people in what concerns hiring and employment, the right to enter and exit the country, and the right to acquire needed travel documents and visas.

To conclude, Palestinians are still waiting for the implementation of such an insufficient yet facilitative move, and insist on completing the reforms dealing with their right to work, social security, property, and such; and consider that it is about time to reconsider regulating their relations with Lebanon after a long-lived hardship so as to gear all efforts toward the right to return in actions and not only in words.

 
 
Notes:*Executive Manager
Human Development Center
 
 
 

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