Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 09:25 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Lebanon

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Lebanon , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Lebanon hosted about 256,000 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection in 2003. The vast majority were Palestinian refugees, including most of those registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and approximately 16,000 unregistered Palestinian refugees who are residing in Lebanon, for a total of 250,000. In addition, more than 6,000 non-Palestinian refugees recognized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) lived in the country. New arrivals in 2003 included nearly 1,000 asylum seekers awaiting a UNHCR decision on their refugee claims, and more than 2,500 non-Palestinian refugees – most of whom are Iraqis and Sudanese. Conversely, some 635 Lebanese nationals sought asylum in other countries during the year, nearly all in the United States.

Statistical note:

In 2003, UNRWA counted approximately 395,000 "Palestine refugees" on its roster. This total does not include at least 16,000 unregistered Palestinian refugees in the country. Within that group, the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) calculates that Lebanon has naturalized 102, 000 Palestinian refugees as citizens since the 1980s. In addition, the government of Lebanon reports that 58,400 Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA also hold third-country citizenship. UNRWA does not disqualify naturalized Palestinian refugees from its services. Since naturalization triggers the cessation clause of the UN Refugee Convention, USCR estimates a growth-adjusted total of 250,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

This statistical methodology has no bearing on the question of what rights, if any, Palestinians may be granted pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution 194 or any final status negotiations.

Palestinian Refugees

Lebanon, not a party to the UN Refugee Convention, continued to deny Palestinian refugees most Convention rights (see "With Palestine, against the Palestinians," World Refugee Survey 2004). Palestinian refugees in Lebanon receive assistance through UNRWA, and are treated separately from UNHCR mandate refugees.

In May, a special council reviewed a 1994 naturalization decree that granted provisional citizenship to more than 150,000 people – placing the citizenship of thousands of Palestinian origin in jeopardy. The Shura Council ordered the Lebanese Ministry of Interior to review the files in response to allegations that many contained falsified documents. Lebanon confers full citizen rights after a ten-year waiting period; the cases in question reach that mark in June 2004. At the end of 2003, however, the state had not yet taken action on the Council's ruling.

Also in May, clashes between Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement and rival factions killed 8 people and wounded at least 25 others in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in Saida, the largest in Lebanon.

Hundreds of Palestinians staged protests across the country in October – including a sit-in at UNRWA offices in Tripoli and demonstrations outside UN offices in Beirut – protesting a Lebanese law barring persons without citizenship issued by a recognized state from owning real estate in the country. In December, some 900 residents of the Ein el-Hilweh camp protested the signing of the unofficial Geneva peace plan as a betrayal of their right of return under Resolution 194.

Iraqi Refugees UNHCR granted Iraqi refugees temporary protection beginning in March 2003, eliminating individual status determinations. Focusing on cases approved for resettlement prior to September 11, 2001, UNHCR helped some 60 Iraqi refugees depart Lebanon by June, headed for the United States, leaving another 190 still awaiting resettlement.

By the end of May, UNHCR began registering Iraqis willing to repatriate, subject to security conditions in Iraq. The Lebanese government waived all exit fees and penalties for Iraqis voluntarily repatriating, and extended this exemption to other refugees. In the first two weeks of registration, an initial convoy carried some 400 Iraqis homeward, including 160 Iraqis released from prison for illegal entry into Lebanon before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. In December, authorities released another group of 270 Iraqi men detained on the same charges. They left Lebanon on buses organized by the ministries of internal and external affairs.

In October, the Israeli army returned some 45 Iraqi Kurds to Lebanon after two years spent in the no-man's-land between the Israel and Lebanon borders. The Kurds had illegally crossed into Israel from southern Lebanon in August 2001. UNHCR helped 16 to repatriate voluntarily, while the rest requested third-country resettlement.

Other Developments

In stark contrast to the treatment of Palestinians, the situation for non-Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is improving. In September, the Lebanese government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with UNHCR to grant identity cards and to extend rights, including freedom of movement and the right to enroll their children in school, to refugees under UNHCR's mandate pending durable solutions.

Also in 2003, the Lebanese government signed readmission agreements with Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Brazil, and Cyprus.

Long-Term Internal Displacement

Internally displaced persons in Lebanon include those from the internal conflict and civil war, which broke Lebanon into sectarian districts, and those displaced by the Israeli invasions of 1978 and 1982. The Lebanese government offered compensation to internally displaced people to rebuild homes, but the vast majority of the displaced have not yet reclaimed their properties. Although Lebanon set the end of 2002 as the target for the return of all displaced, estimates of those still displaced at the end of 2003 range from 50,000 to more than 500,000. Return has been slow due to corruption and political rivalries between government officials, lack of money, and security concerns. Several hundred thousand landmines located in the south have caused death and injury. In addition, cross-border fighting between the Israeli forces and Hizballah guerrillas continued.

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