Palestinian refugees trapped in Lebanon are sitting targets for Israeli bombs

Overcrowding puts tremendous pressure on sanitation facilities. Displaced children collecting water at Bourj Hammoud High School. (UNHCR/C.Lau)


Nearly 400,000 Palestinian refugees trapped in Lebanon are sitting targets for Israeli bombs, according to Samia Khan, Head of Programmes at NGO Minority Rights Group International.

“The Palestinian refugees, some of whom are stateless and many without rights, are prevented from leaving their camps. They have, in effect, become a sitting target for the Israeli bombs,” she says.

There are twelve camps for Palestinian refugees across Lebanon, many situated in areas that have been heavily bombed. The camps have existed for nearly 60 years and have developed into urban ghettos indistinguishable from their surroundings – except for restrictions on entry and exit. While camps in Beirut are relatively accessible, in other areas, refugees must have proper identification papers to enter or leave the camps. However, some are trapped because they do not have these papers.

“Because of the current situation, even if these refugees are able to flee, they may never be allowed back into Lebanon again, and this knowledge keeps many confined to their camps,” says Khan.

“If they join the floods of Lebanese people who are new refugees crossing into Syria, they will be doubly lost - refugees among refugees,” she adds.

Many have already suffered displacement twice before, first in 1948 and then in 1967. According to the UNRWA, the camps have no proper infrastructure. Refugees have no access to education, poor health services and have been prevented from building permanent homes. They are banned from working in over 70 trades and professions. Lebanon has the highest percentage of Palestinian refugees already living in abject poverty and who are registered with the Agency’s “special hardship” programme.

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) campaigns to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide, and to promote cooperation and understanding between communities.

Notes

  • The Palestinan refugee population of Lebanon makes up about 10 per cent of the total population. United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) provides education, healthcare, social services and emergency aid to over four million Palestinian refugees living in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab republic. According to UNRWA: Total registered Palestinian refugees in Lebanon: 394, 532. Registered camp population: 223, 956. Official camps: 12. Elementary and pre schools: 81. Secondary schools: 5. Refugees considered as special hardship cases: 46, 235.

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