November  24, 2019

Since Palestinian exodus, the known as Nakba occurrence in 1947, thousands of Palestinians fled from villages in northern Palestine, who went to Lebanon escaping the war and the Israeli horrible massacres. The Lebanese-Palestinian Working Group has defined the Palestinian refugee as: "Every Palestinian who has been displaced to the Lebanese Republic after 1947 Nakba, due to uprooting, its forced displacement, the subsequent of Israeli occupation for all Palestine in 1967 and its repercussions, and every descendant of a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon as identified in the definition provided previously ".

For Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, the conditions of their camps are described as the worst in the world, a very difficult and complex living conditions are characterized by deprivation and restrictions at all levels and all aspects, in addition to constant pressures from the Lebanese Authorities regarding job opportunities, health, official papers transactions, housing and public services. The accumulative problems and complications of these camps various issues were and still a burden on Palestinian Refugees' shoulders.

On the other hand, dozens of Non-Governmental and Civil Society Organizations which are concerned about services provision for refugees and facilitating their lives as there is no ones' there to perform these roles, considering the absence of any unified Palestinian reference in Lebanon. The required essential services are concentrated in the fields of education, health and vocational training.

  • General Statistics on Palestinian Refugees:

The number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon as of mid-2019 is about 533,885 refugees, which constitutes 10% of the general total of Palestinian refugees and 10.5% of the total population of Lebanon. They are distributed in 12 camps organized and recognized by the UNRWA: (Mieh Mieh, El-Buss, Burj El -Shemali, Rashidieh, Sharila, Mar Elias, Borj El Barajneh, Ein El-Hilweh, Nahr Al-Bared, Beddawi, Wavel and Dbayeh). In addition to 156 gatherings of refugee’s communities in the five governorates of Lebanon.

Compared to refugees elsewhere in the world, Palestinian refugees particularly living in Lebanon face an unprecedented status of political, economic and social exclusion. Of the more than half a million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, 170,000 are living in refugee camps.

More than half of the Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon have no other choice other than living in poor and densely populated camps. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon suffer from extremely high unemployment rates reaching 56%. The poverty rate among Palestinian refugees exceeds 73%. Palestinians in Lebanon are deprived of exercising any civil or social right, and are prohibited from applying to dozens of professions and jobs because of number of discriminatory laws.

  • Palestinian Organizations: Chronology:

When waves of Palestinian refugees arrived to Lebanon, the provided services to them were confined to international organizations such as UNRWA. Later, as the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) came to Lebanon, the responsibility towards the Palestinian refugees expanded and the organization took prominent role in serving them.  In particular, in 1967, after  Cairo Agreement which was signed by the Lebanese authorities and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which states allowing the Palestinians to establish local committees in camps to take care of the Palestinian interests, in cooperation with the Lebanese authorities.

Following the signing of the agreement, a number of new Palestinian organizations emerged and played a role in providing basic services to refugees, such as health services, vital care for women and children as General Union of Palestinian Women Organizations were active and had sensible impact, in addition to the organizations specialized in cultural and sports activities and others which were responsible for the care and sponsorship of martyrs and detainees’ families. In addition to the participation of various Palestinian groups and the PLO, as well as some independent Palestinian characters that established various associations such as "Houla Association" which was founded in 1973 at Burj el_Shemali camp, as well as "Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Foundation" that was established in 1974 and other organizations. However, the PLO's exit from Lebanon in 1982 led to the collapse of its affiliated organizations, then about twenty Palestinian Civil Society Organizations were established in late 1980s and 1990s, and many more after 2000 as they witnessed golden period because international donors funded these organizations in the fields of health care and human rights. In additions to that Several foreign and international organizations have also been active in Palestinian circles such as “Save the Children”, “The Right to Play” and “Land of Humans -Switzerland”.

  • Palestinian Organizations: Significant Statistics

The organizations working with Palestinians are classified into 4 categories, as follows:

1. Lebanese organizations, licensed through the Lebanese Ministry of Interior and Municipalities according to a notification announcement, as per the Ottoman Law of Associations of 1909, and based upon law-decree no. 10830 issued in October 1962.

2. Foreign organizations having Lebanese branches, licensed according to a presidential decree, as per the Foreign Association Law (decision no. 369) issued on December 21, 1939.

3. Religious organizations affiliated to the Islamic Waqf and that do not require a license from the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, but rather operate according to a “religious proof” that they obtain from one of the religious courts directly affiliated to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. For instance, the NGO Ataa’ (Giving), headquartered in Rashidieh camp in Tyre, was established in 1994, and obtained a religious proof from the court of Tyre under no. 30/3.

4. Unlicensed Palestinian organizations, agencies and associations that operate according to their internal regulations and special programs.

With reference to the figures on the number of organizations and associations working among Palestinians and their camps, until the year of 2012, there is about 213 organizations and associations which vary in size and capacity depending on their programs and funding channels. The numbers can be monitored as follows: (108 public organizations, 16 federations and service organizations, 42 organizations concerned with sports affairs, 27 kindergartens and educational centers that provide services within the camps, 18 popular committees, civil and other organizations). These organizations focus on youth, clubs, children, women, health services, people with disabilities, the elderly, families of martyrs and wounded, culture, Palestinian rights and human rights.

  • Legal Challenges Facing these Organizations:

The Palestinian Civil Society Organizations in Lebanon face many challenges, most notably are the restriction practiced by the Lebanese State, especially with regard to the issue of granting licenses, such as: the work legal permit outside the camps, known as "knowledge and acknowledge", which the Lebanese Ministry of Interior keeps delaying its granting to organizations, in addition to the refusal of some organizations' applications to the permit in order to evade its tax liabilities.

In referring to Lebanese law regarding the establishment of organizations, the Lebanese Constitution enshrines the freedom of organizations and the right of assembly.  And were the Article number 13 stipulates that "freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of printing, freedom of assembly and freedom of organizations are guaranteed within the law."

Whereas the Lebanese Organization is established as soon as the will of its founders meets and their regulations are signed, without the need for any prior authorization from the authorities. The establishment of foreign organizations including the Palestinian ones, their branches, and amendment on statutes and bylaws are subjected to Resolution No. 369 (L / 21) dated 21/12/1939; which is a system of prior authorization that states, (in violation of the general principle that the Assembly merely declares to the authorities and gives them "knowledge and acknowledge").

  •  Organizational and Administrative Issues:

In addition to the legal obstacles imposed by the Lebanese authorities, some of the organizational and administrative problems are still one of the most complicated features of the general imbalance of these organizations, where the work of these organizations overlaps with the work of the Palestinian groups that guard the camps' security.  Most of the Civil Society Organizations in the camps are directly or indirectly affiliated with the Palestinian political parties and factions, operating under different names, including those who work to achieve factional objectives in the first place, this in turn creates a state of mistrust between these organizations and the people within the boundaries of the camps.

Also, the absence of a real administrative system governing the work of these organizations is considered as a real problematic issue, the majority of its administrations win by recommendations without elections.  In addition to the absence of accountability and oversight systems on these organizations. The current situation reinforces absence of clear strategies for action, and lack of coordination mechanisms and cooperation between these organizations established in the various camps.

  • Challenges and Solutions' Priorities:

As for the Palestinian organizations that are active in the Lebanese territories, they face very great challenge, as they suffer from large increase in demand for the services' provision that are over their capacity.  This comes as a normal consequence of restrictions series on the Palestinian refugees that all target their income resources, livelihoods, life and ultimately their existing stability on Lebanese territory.

Recently, as part of the deepening policies on crisis, the Lebanese Minister of Labor presented his decision to treat Palestinian refugees as foreign workers, therefore, the Palestinian is classified here as a foreigner, although he has lived on Lebanese land since birth, and is classified as a refugee.

Other decisions have been issued such as imposing high annual financial fines on the "work permit on the Palestinian" as a foreigner worker, which means that organizations will have to dispense the Palestinian worker and replace him with a Lebanese citizen as it is a less material cost than the cost increased by the fines and taxes imposed on them annually. The Lebanese government has previously recognized the prohibition of 73 professions on the Palestinians, especially in the educational, engineering, law, medicine and media sectors, which widened a bigger gap in the Lebanese street between the Lebanese citizen and the Palestinian refugee, and the voices of hatred and racism discourse have risen from the parties involved.

Among the solutions' priorities and ways of alleviating the crises, the Lebanese authorities should immediately stop their racism campaign against the organizations, the Palestinian refugee workers, and facilitate granting of licenses to Palestinian organizations through the issuance of decrees from the Lebanese Council of Ministers as stipulated in Decision No. 369 (LR) of 21 / 12/1939, and Circular No. (13) of 26 August 2014. The necessity of respecting the special conventions that recognize the rights of refugees, in addition to preventing all forms of racial discrimination provided in all the human rights conventions, and to give refugees the full right to exercise their economic activity and not to prevent them from employment and free professions.