Palestinian refugees in makeshift shelter in Lebanon. Credit: Mutuwalli Abou Nasser/IPS
The number of Palestinian refugees from war-torn Syria (PRS) has seen a sharp decrease in the Lebanese territories, UN and human rights bodies have documented.
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, with a remarkable decrease from previous years.
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).
UNRWA data estimated that until December 2016 as many as 31,850 Palestinian refugees from Syria had sought shelter in Lebanon, down from 28,598 in 2019.
The decrease has been attributed to the mistreatment and crackdowns perpetrated against the refugees in the Lebanese territories, where they have also been denied the right to legal visas, refugee documents, safe accommodation, basic services, relief assistance, free education and healthcare, and access to the local labor market.
A decision issued by the Lebanese authorities in early May 2014 denied the Palestinians of Syria the right to freely enter the Lebanese territories, in an attempt to rein in refugee influx from Syria.
In its 2020 Syria crisis emergency appeal, UNRWA said that PRS in Lebanon continue to face high vulnerability and marginalization, making them heavily reliant on UNRWA humanitarian support to cover their basic needs. The socio-economic hardships and unrest experienced by the country have compounded PRS’ already dire living conditions.
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.
PRS’s vulnerability is further compounded by their precarious legal status. The lack of a valid legal status, often coupled with outdated civil registration documents, results in severely restricted freedom of movement for some PRS in Lebanon due to fear of arrest, detention or forced deportation.