BEIRUT: The Palestinian Association for Human Rights (Shahed) announced in its annual report Tuesday that the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is getting worse by the year, as their rights diminish in number and value daily.
According to the report, “the [poor] housing conditions in camps have not been addressed, and there is no local or international initiative on the horizon to improve them.” It described the camps as “a breeding ground for disease, home collapses, and a well of social problems.”
There are approximately 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, most of whom live in and around the country’s 12 camps. The camps are largely overcrowded and poorly provided for in terms of water and electricity.
The report called the pace of reconstruction of Nahr al-Bared, the northern camp that was mostly destroyed during a 2007 conflict between the Lebanese Army and Islamist group Fatah al-Islam, very slow.
The health situation in the camps is also deteriorating, according to the report, despite slight improvements in UNRWA’s health services. Education provision is dramatically declining, the report added, as problems in the education system have accumulated for 20 years now with the exception of a slight improvement at the high school level.
Shahed stressed that “the absence of any political power has left the camps without authority or police,” adding that “social problems [in the camps] are very dangerous as is the case in Ain al-Hilweh.”
The camp has seen several armed clashes in recent months.
The report also said that in 2011, it had recorded no initiatives by the Lebanese government aimed at improving the conditions of Palestinian refugees.
Shahed called on the Lebanese government to commit to “its international obligations in respecting Palestinians and amending all laws and decisions that contradict with the texts of international human rights resolutions,” namely allowing Palestinians to own property and collect social security.
Palestinians with work permits currently do benefit from the National Social Security Fund.
It also urged the government to allow Palestinians to work in the some 30 “liberal” professions they are currently barred from, including law, engineering and medicine.
Shahed also asked the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee to establish relationships with Palestinian civil society organizations in order to find out the true real needs of the Palestinian community.
It stressed the need for UNRWA to depend less on foreign employees, thus creating job opportunities for local Palestinians, spend its money in a more rational way, and help finish the construction in Nahr al-Bared as soon as possible, while providing for the displaced refugees in the meantime.
The report called on the Palestinian Liberation Organization to advocate for Palestinian refugees with the Lebanese government, and show more concern for the residents of Nahr al-Bared.
It added the PLO should focus on working with donor countries to finish the camp’s reconstruction quickly so residents can return home as soon as possible. It also urged the PLO to support, both politically and financially, the Palestinian Student Fund, which provides scholarships for university education.