Selective Summary of Key Challenges to Palestinian Socio-Economic and Civil Rights in Lebanon

By Wissam Saliby, 
This presentation was given during the conference on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and in the OPTs in Geneva on November the 11th 
According to its national report submitted as part of the UPR process, and as mentioned in its ministerial statement, the Lebanese Government undertook to continue to work to provide Palestinians residing in Lebanon with human and social rights.
Most Palestinian refugees have been residing in Lebanon for 62 years. However, the Lebanese legislator did not define who the Palestinian refugee in Lebanon is. The Lebanese legislation addresses Palestinian refugees sometime as foreigners, sometime as a “special category of foreigners”, and sometime as Palestinian refugees. Our first recommendation for the Lebanese Government is to adopt a clear definition, in law, of who is a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon.
Right to work
On August 17, 2010 the Lebanese Parliament amended Lebanese Labor Laws and Lebanese Social Security Laws to give Palestinian refugees in Lebanon the right to work in manual and clerical jobs, and to benefit from social security. This positive step was incomplete as it did not give Palestinian refugees access to liberal professions (medicine, engineering, lawyer, pharmacy, dentistry, auditing, nurses, etc.) where membership of Lebanese syndicates is compulsory. The by-laws of these syndicates were enacted by the Lebanese Parliament. Some of these by-laws state that the applicant should be of Lebanese nationality for more than 10 years, and others accept foreigners on condition of State reciprocity, thus excluding stateless Palestinians.
These provisions are discriminatory and in violation of Article 2 para. 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and of article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at preventing discrimination on national basis, and of Article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) which affords “the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to just and favorable remuneration” (para. i). Article 5 of the CERD is applicable to non-nationals as per Article 1, paragraph 2, which is construed so as to avoid undermining the basic prohibition of discrimination (General Recommendation No.30: Discrimination Against Non Citizens para. 2).
·         We recommend that the Lebanese Parliament amends clauses in by-laws of professional syndicates which exclude, explicitly or implicitly, Palestinian refugees from adhering to these syndicates, so as to give them the full right to work.
The Right to Own Property
In 2001, the Lebanese legislator amended the 1969 legislative decree concerning the obtainment of real estate property by non-Lebanese, and prohibited ownership of realty of any kind “by any person who does not hold citizenship from a recognized State, or to any person where such ownership contravenes the provisions of the Constitution concerning naturalization”.
Prior to the amendment, Palestinians, like foreigners, had the right to own up to 5000 square meters outside of Beirut and up to 3000 square meters in Beirut, without the need for a permit. The 2001 law deliberately excluded Palestinians from owning real estate property, as they are the only foreigners not having a “nationality of a recognized state”. Property owned by Palestinians before 2001 is no longer inheritable and is transferred upon death to religious institutions. Property bought and paid for, fully or partially (in installments), before the 2001 legislative amendment, is no longer eligible for registration at the national registrar or Cadastre Office.
The Lebanese 2001 legislation is a violation to article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which guarantees in its paragraphs 5 and 6 the right to everyone, without distinction based on nationality, the right to own property and the right to inherit.
·         We recommend that the Lebanese government amends the 2001 law to allow the Palestinian refugees to own real estate property, and to restore property lost upon death to its rightful owners.
Right to legal personality for undocumented Palestinian refugees
Most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are registered as refugees with both UNRWA and the Lebanese authorities, or registered only with the Lebanese Authorities (Non-Registered categorie).
Approximately 5000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are not registered with the Lebanese government, nor with the UNRWA in Lebanon. Without any proof of existence, they are unable to access basic health services, education, humanitarian aid or the employment market, and are denied civil, social and economic rights, including owning cars or motorbikes which require registration. Registration of marriages of undocumented males and registration of newborns to undocumented males, are impossible.
Till date, efforts by Lebanese authorities to regularize their situation have not succeeded in sustainably and irreversibly affording IDs to this segment of the Palestinian population in Lebanon.
The right to identity is a fundamental human right, and a pre-requisite for the enjoyment of civic, economic and social rights as stipulated in article 11 of the ICCPR.
·         Our recommendation is for the Lebanese Government to take a decision to grant identifications documents to undocumented Palestinian refugees, in a sustainable and irrevocable process that would ensure the dignity of this population, and their right to legal personality, in equality with documented Palestinian refugees.
For more information
Please consult the April 2010 joint NGO submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Palestinian Socio-Economic and Civil Rights in Lebanon, which covers, in addition to the above, the right to freedom of movement, arbitrary detention and right to fair trial, and the right to adequate housing.
Available on this link:
Or contact:
·         Wissam Al Saliby, Advocacy Officer, Norwegian People’s Aid – Lebanon,
+961 1 702 582 (phone), +961 1 702 342 (fax)
·         Rola Badran, Programs Director, Palestinian Human Rights Organization, Lebanon, +961 1 303 507 (phone), +961 1 306 740 (fax)

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