Palestinian refugees - systematic discrimination and complete lack of interest on the part of the international community

11/03/2003
Report
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Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are the victims of obvious discriminations.

Absence of an appropriate legal status, prohibition to occupy dozens of professions, lack of social security, impossibility to acquire real estate, restrictions to the freedom of movement and to the freedom of association, etc.: almost 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are constantly and obviously discriminated against. 384,918 refugees are registered with the UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. In addition, 10,000 Palestinians are alledged to be living there without any identification paper, since they are not registered with the organization.

The FIDH mission report aims at highlighting and explaining the numerous legal issues triggered by their situation. The report notably focuses on the will, considered as « obsessive », of the Lebanese authorities to avoid long-term implantation (« Tawtîn ») by the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Moreover, this will has been explicitly affirmed in the Lebanese Constitution.

The Palestinian refugees’ legal status is certainly remarquable in the sense that, due to the existence of the UNRWA, which aims at offering them a humanitarian assistance, they do not benefit from the protection of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees. Thus, the Palestinian refugees established in Lebanon only benefit from a right of residence, kept to the strict minimum. They are characterized by extreme vulnerability, in so far as they do not enjoy any legal protection. Therefore, the Lebanese authorities are able to pass laws that are increasingly discriminatory against the Palestinian refugees, and they have not hesitated to go forward with this since the time when their relationship, cordial at the beginning, gradually deteriorated in view of the absence of a perspective of global resolution of the Israel- Palestine conflict.

This state of discrimination against Palestinian refugees is contrary to Lebanon’s international obligations in the field of human rights, especially article 26 of the International Covenant on civil and political rights, and the provisions of the International Convention for the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination.

Moreover, the flagrant violations of its international obligations by Lebanon have also clearly led to the complete abandonment, by the Lebanese State, of the Palestinian refugees to their tragic fate. Because their stay in Lebanon is supposed to be only "temporary" (although many of them have been there since 1948), they are being kept in a situation of organized exclusion and confronted to a daily struggle for survival.

Therefore, the FIDH calls for the Lebanese authorities, on the one hand, to ratify the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees, and on the other hand, to abrogate all discriminatory measures against Palestinian refugees established on the Lebanese territory.

It also calls for the international community to urge Lebanon to ratify the above-mentionned Convention, and to financially support the UNRWA, which is currently facing some financial difficulties.

Finally, it encourages the UNRWA to register with its services the Palestinian refugees who are not, in order to prevent them from remaining in even greater distress.

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