Palestinians in Lebanon
|174,422 (2017 census) – 450,000 (2014 UNRWA figure)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Greater Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli|
|Arabic (Palestinian Arabic)|
|Majority Sunni Islam. Minority: Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, Shia Islam|
Palestinians in Lebanon include the Palestinian refugees who fled to Lebanon during the 1948 Palestine War, their descendants, as well as the Palestinian militias which resided in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, and Palestinian nationals who have recently moved to Lebanon from countries experiencing conflict, such as Syria. Many Palestinians in Lebanon are refugees and their descendants, who have been barred from naturalisation, retaining stateless refugee status. However, some Palestinians, mostly Christian women and Shias, have received Lebanese citizenship either through marriage with Lebanese nationals or by other means.
Estimates of the number of Palestinians in Lebanon ranged from 260,000 to 400,000 in 2011.[when?] Human Rights Watch estimated 300,000 as of 2011. The UNRWA counted 475,075 registered Palestine refugees as of 1 Jan 2019 in its twelve refugee camps in Lebanon. In 2017, a census by the Lebanese government counted 174,000 Palestinians in Lebanon.
Most Palestinians in Lebanon do not have Lebanese citizenship and therefore do not have Lebanese identity cards, which would entitle them to government services, such as health and education. They are also legally barred from owning property or entering a list of desirable occupations. Employment requires a government-issued work permit, and, according to the New York Times, although "Lebanon hands out and renews hundreds of thousands of work permits every year to people from Africa, Asia and other Arab countries... until now, only a handful have been given" to Palestinians. Palestinians in Lebanon also have to heavily rely on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for basic services such as health care and education, because they are not granted much access to the social services the Lebanese government provides. In February 2011, a decree was signed by Boutros Harb, the caretaker labor minister (of Lebanon), on carrying out labor law amendments from August 2010. If these labor law amendments go into effect, it will make it easier for work permits to be acquired by Palestinians. The amendments are seen as "the first move to legalize the working status of Palestinians since the first refugees arrived, fleeing the 1948 Arab-Israeli war".
Palestinians in Lebanon include the Palestinian refugees who fled to Lebanon during the 1948 Palestine War, their descendants, as well as the Palestinian militias which resided in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, and Palestinian nationals who have recently moved to Lebanon from countries experiencing conflict, such as Syria.
Estimates of the number of Palestinians in Lebanon ranged from 260,000 to 400,000 in 2011. In 2018 Human Rights Watch estimated 174,000 "longstanding" Lebanese refugees and 45,000 Lebanese refugees more recently displaced from Syria.
Most Palestinians in Lebanon are stateless. They are not entitled to Lebanese citizenship, though most were born in Lebanon and irrespective of how many generations their families have lived in Lebanon. Some Palestinians, mostly Palestinian Christian women, have received Lebanese citizenship through marriage with a Lebanese national, and some by other means. (Lebanese nationality law does not provide for a Lebanese wife conferring Lebanese nationality to a foreign husband or to a child with a foreign father.)
During the Syrian occupation of Lebanon in 1994, the government naturalized over 154,931 foreign residents of Palestinian (mostly Palestinian Christians) and Syrian (mostly Syrian Sunnis and Christians) descent. It was argued that the purpose of these naturalizations was to sway the elections to a pro-Syrian government. This allegation is based on how these new citizens were bussed in to vote and displayed higher voting rates than the nationals did.
Without citizenship, Palestinians in Lebanon do not have Lebanese identity cards, which also entitles the holder to health, education and other government services. To receive health, education and other social services, Palestinian refugees are obligated to live in the twelve refugee camps in Lebanon set up by UNRWA. According to Human Rights Watch, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in "appalling social and economic conditions." Non-citizen Palestinians are also legally barred from owning property and barred from entering a list of desirable occupations.
Employment requires a government-issued work permit, and, according to the New York Times, although "Lebanon hands out and renews hundreds of thousands of work permits every year to people from Africa, Asia and other Arab countries... until now, only a handful have been given" to Palestinians. They labor under legal restrictions that bar them from employment in at least 25 professions, "including law, medicine, and engineering," a system that relegates them to the black market for labor. And they are "still subject to a discriminatory law introduced in 2001 preventing them from registering property.
In 2016, Lebanese authorities began constructing a concrete wall with watch towers around the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. The wall has faced some criticism, being called "racist" by some and supposedly labeling residents as terrorists or islamists. As of May 2017, the wall construction was nearing completion.
For travel abroad non-citizen Palestinian residents of Lebanon can obtain travel documents that serve in place of passports. Travellers who hold only a Palestinian passport are refused entry to Lebanon.
Palestinians in Lebanon also have to heavily rely on UNRWA for basic services such as health care and education, because they do not have much access to the social services the Lebanese government provides. In February 2011, a decree was signed by Boutros Harb, the caretaker labor minister (of Lebanon), on carrying out labor law amendments from August 2010. If these labor law amendments go into effect, it will make it easier for work permits to be acquired by Palestinians. The amendments are seen as "the first move to legalize the working status of Palestinians since the first refugees arrived, fleeing the 1948 Arab-Israeli war".
Israeli Arab journalist, Khaled Abu Toameh accused Lebanon of practicing apartheid against Palestinian Arabs who have lived in Lebanon as stateless refugees since 1948. According to Human Rights Watch, "In 2001, Parliament passed a law prohibiting Palestinians from owning property, a right they had for decades. Lebanese law also restricts their ability to work in many areas. In 2005, Lebanon eliminated a ban on Palestinians holding most clerical and technical positions, provided they obtain a temporary work permit from the Labor Ministry, but more than 20 high-level professions remain off-limits to Palestinians. Few Palestinians have benefited from the 2005 reform, though. In 2009, only 261 of more than 145,679 permits issued to non-Lebanese were for Palestinians. Civil society groups say many Palestinians choose not to apply because they cannot afford the fees and see no reason to pay a portion of their salary toward the National Social Security Fund, since Lebanese law bars Palestinians from receiving social security benefits."
In one of his series of articles accusing the government of Lebanon of practising "apartheid" against the resident Palestinian community, the Israeli Arab journalist, Khaled Abu Toameh describes the "special legal status" as "foreigners" assigned uniquely to Palestinians, "a fact which has deprived them of health care, social services, property ownership and education. Even worse, Lebanese law bans Palestinians from working in many jobs. This means that Palestinians cannot work in the public services and institutions run by the government such as schools and hospitals. Unlike Israel, Lebanese public hospitals do not admit Palestinians for medical treatment or surgery." Journalist Ben-Dror Yemini describes Palestinians in Lebanon as living "under various restrictions that could fill a chapter on Arab apartheid against the Palestinians. One of the most severe restrictions is a ban on construction. This ban is enforced even in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, bombed by the Lebanese army in 2007. Calling on Lebanon to change the systematic discrimination against his people, Palestinian journalist Rami George Khouri compared Lebanese treatment of Palestinians to the "Apartheid system" of South Africa.
Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon contain armed groups which sometimes deal in illegal drugs, and that would cause infighting among the rivals. In June 2020, a woman was shot dead in the Shatila refugee camp as she was walking on the street carrying her child during a shooting exchange between rival gangs.
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Such accusations are believed[who?], on the other hand, to be biased and non-realistic for numerous reasons, one of which is the fact that the Palestinian refugees are armed and the Lebanese Army is de-facto banned from entering into the camps due to the existence of heavy arms and balanced tensions between Lebanese communities, in which the Lebanese leftist and Islamic politicians wave out the option of having Lebanese Army control over the camps. The other reason why the critics, who most hold the Israeli citizenship live and work in Israel, criticize Lebanon, is that they ignored the critical Lebanese demography, having the 40% Christians holding the presidency, army and central bank, in addition to the Shiites (including Hezbollah) and Druze, not in favor of empowering the Sunni Palestinians.
- Palestinians in Lebanon less than half previous estimate, census shows
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