Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Photo credit: APA
The UN Agency for Palestine Refugees has raised alarm bells over the abject humanitarian situation endured by Palestinian refugees, particularly those fleeing war-torn Syria (PRS), in Lebanon.
“In this complex and challenging context, PRS in Lebanon continue to face high vulnerability and marginalization, making them heavily reliant on UNRWA humanitarian support to cover their basic needs”, said UNRWA in its 2020 Syria crisis emergency appeal.
The socio-economic hardships and unrest experienced by all in the country have compounded PRS’ already dire living conditions, it added.
According to information collected by UNRWA, more than 80 per cent of PRS indicate that the Agency’s cash assistance is their main source of income.
In August and September 2019, UNRWA conducted a verification exercise of PRS in Lebanon and verified the physical presence of 27,803 PRS in the country. The number of PRS in Lebanon has been gradually decreasing over the past two years, and UNRWA estimates that in 2020 the country will continue to host approximately 27,700 PRS (8,450 families).
According to a survey conducted by the American University of Beirut in 2015, nearly 90 percent of the PRS population in Lebanon live in poverty, including 9 per cent who are in extreme poverty and unable to meet even their most essential food requirements.
UNRWA said PRS’s vulnerability is further compounded by their precarious legal status. According to the Agency’s monitoring data, around 55 percent of PRS do not possess valid legal residency documents. The lack of a valid legal status, often coupled with outdated civil registration documents, results in severely restricted freedom of movement for some PRS in Lebanon due to fear of arrest, detention and being issued a departure order.
In 2019, the decision of the General Security Office of the Government of Lebanon to deport Syrians who entered the country illegally after 24 April 2019, coupled with departure orders issued to PRS without valid residency who entered before that date, have also increased the fear of PRS of being deported to Syria, said UNRWA.
The self-restriction of movement puts a strain on PRS’ access to basic services, livelihoods and the formal labor market. In addition, a new policy implemented by the Ministry of Labor to limit informal and illegal labor by foreign workers has affected PRS and has resulted in the closure of several shops and businesses, it stated.
Since mid-October 2019, there have been regular, countrywide demonstrations in major Lebanese cities to protest against the current government and their perceived inability to deal with a major economic and financial crisis in the country. While the protests have largely been non-violent, at the time of writing, some tensions and fatal clashes between protesters and pro-government groups have occurred.
The ongoing government crisis and the recent downgrading of Lebanon’s credit rating by all major rating agencies further worsened the situation and on 2 September 2019, the Lebanese authorities declared that the country was in a state of economic emergency.