Podcast/Documentary: Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

Hundreds of thousands of stateless Palestinian refugees reside in Lebanon scattered in impoverished refugee camps throughout the country, originally displaced during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Without the right to work in over 70 professions, barred from owning property and legally defined as foreigners, Palestinians live in Lebanon as second-class citizens without basic social or political rights.

Graffiti on the walls of Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon. (Photo: Stefan Christoff EI)

In June 2005, Lebanon’s Labour Minister proposed changes to the country’s labour laws, which if implemented by the newly formed government will allow Palestinians in the country the right to work in manual and clerical jobs, while still being forced to apply for foreign work permits. Although the proposed changes will still prohibit Palestinian professionals from working as doctors, lawyers, journalists, politicians and engineers.

The proposed amendments to the country labour law takes place in the shadow of larger political changes in Lebanon. In April 2005, Syria capitulated with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 and withdrew upwards of 15 000 troops from the country. Social and political pressure also forced tens-of-thousands of Syrian workers from the country. In this context Palestinians in the camps express skepticism regarding economic motives for the proposed change regarding their right to work, as it is commonly argued that Palestinians can now fill the cheap-labour vacuum, left by the withdrawal of Syrian labour force.

To download the podcast/listen to the radio documentary, click here [MP3 format, 26.7MB].

The documentary/podcast features many voices of Palestinians in Lebanon including, Olfat Mahmoud of the Women’s Humanitarian Organization (WHO) in Burj el-Barajneh refugee camp, Souheil el-Natour a central committee member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and Jaber Suleiman of Aidoun in Lebanon (Arabic for “the Returnees”).

This 30-minute radio documentary/Internet podcast was produced by Sawsan Kalache, Mohammed Shublaq and Stefan Christoff of the Independent Media Center of Beirut.