United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA):
Around 455,000 refugees are registered with UNRWA in Lebanon, with many living in the country’s 12 refugee camps. Three other camps were destroyed during Lebanon’s civil conflict (Nabatieh camp in south Lebanon, and Dikwaneh and Jisr el-Basha camps in the Beirut area). A fourth (Gouraud in Baalbek) was evacuated many years ago.
Palestinian refugees make up an estimated ten per cent of Lebanon, a small country which is now densely populated.
Palestine refugees in Lebanon do not enjoy several basic human rights, for example, they do not have the right to work in as many as 20 professions. Palestine refugees are not formally citizens of another state, so they are not able to claim the same rights as other foreigners living and working in Lebanon.
Palestine refugees in Lebanon face a number of specific problems:
- lack of social and civil rights
- no access to public social services
- very limited access to public health or educational facilities.
Most refugees rely entirely on UNRWA as the sole provider of education, health and relief and social services.
The refugees’ major concern is the cost of hospitalisation. UNRWA provides basic primary healthcare, but is only able to cover the cost of secondary hospital care and partial tertiary care.
Since these costs are beyond the means of most refugees, they often face a choice between foregoing essential medical treatment and falling deeply into debt.
Palestine refugees are subject to many employment restrictions that have left them highly dependent on UNRWA as their main relief provider and major employer. In 2005, officially registered Palestine refugees born in Lebanon were allowed by law to work in the clerical and administrative sectors for the first time. However, refugees are still unable to work in some professions, for example, as doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers or accountants.
The refugee workforce is substantially underemployed. Although many do find work, this is often seasonal or casual work for low wages and with no social and welfare benefits.
There are distinct signs that this situation is weakening the community's commitment to education. Many young people see no purpose in continuing their study. Some drop out and find manual work in order to support their families.
Many refugees live in “gatherings”, often located near official camps and on private land. While UNRWA provides direct services to registered and non-registered refugees, whether they live inside or outside official camps, the Agency cannot construct shelters or rehabilitate the infrastructure in the “gatherings” as these areas lie outside its official camps. Nor can UNRWA provide services such as solid waste disposal to these communities, because they fall under the responsibility of local municipalities.