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Interior Ministry sets up Palestinian database
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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BEIRUT: The Interior Ministry announced Monday that it is setting up the first state-held database of Palestinian refugees to try to alleviate their personal status paperwork problems.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel introduced the new registry at his office in Beirut Monday, saying it was part of the government’s obligation to the Palestinian people to improve their lives without undercutting the right of return.

“The Palestinian refugees have been waiting for so long for any development from the Directorate of Refugee Affairs,” Charbel said. “We cannot delay whatever we can do to facilitate for them.”

The new digital database is intended to make completing personal status paperwork such as marriage documents and birth certificates easier for the large Palestinian communities.

This paperwork has been a consistent headache for Palestinians as they try to conduct normal lives and build families despite their stateless status.

There are about 450,000 Palestinians in the country registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency spread out over 12 camps throughout the nation.

The project will use the UNRWA database of Palestinians who are registered residents in the U.N. camps to start the ministry’s database. Palestinians not currently registered with the U.N. will have a separate process to be listed in the nation’s registry.

The new database is set up with support from the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee and the United Nations Development Program, as well as UNRWA.

Charbel said the registry was a small step to help Palestinians, which is what all Arab nations are obligated to do. “Since I’ve come into office I’ve insisted that we try to alleviate the injustice and burden of the Palestinian refugees,” he said.

Also at the conference officials announced they were in the process of archiving the entirety of the Directorate of Refugees documentation.

The digitized documents are intended to generally improve the coordination and living situation for Palestinians over time and help sort through their complicated living situation.

Palestinians have had a difficult and strained stay in Lebanon. Their massive influx after their leaders were expelled from Jordan further complicated Lebanon’s precarious sectarian balance; Palestinian militias played a major role during Lebanon’s 1975-90 Civil War.

Currently the Palestinian camps are wracked by intra-Palestinian group fighting that frequently wounds or kills residents. The camps aren’t patrolled by Lebanese security forces and weapons are widely held by a variety of militias.

Long term, Charbel said the list could help sort out the administrative issues of the camps whenever a Palestinian state is established.

“The Palestinian state – when it’s established in the future – will want to know where their people are,” the minister said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 14, 2012, on page 4.
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