U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Lebanon



Refoulement/Asylum  General Security forces, assisted by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), forcibly repatriated more than 350 Iraqi illegal entrants. In addition, refugees in Lebanon reported the deportation of several hundred asylum seekers throughout the year, mainly Sudanese. In June, UNHCR repatriated the remaining 30 Iraqi Kurds stranded since 2001 between the Lebanese and Israeli borders.

The 1962 Law of Entry and Exit prohibited refoulement and allowed foreigners to request political asylum, yet did not allow appeals. UNHCR conducted refugee status determinations (RSDs), but asylum seekers had to apply within two months of arrival. Pending RSDs, the Government issued residence permits initially valid for three months, and extendable up to twelve months. Once UNHCR granted refugee status, the Government issued new residence permits valid for six months, extendable for three additional months, pending resettlement. A 2003 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between UNHCR and the Government provided that refugees and asylum-seekers had a right to remain for one year.

Lebanon had no refugee or asylum law. A 1962 decree identified Palestinian refugees as a special category of foreigners "not holding documents from their original countries and residing in Lebanon."

Detention  Lebanese state security, Syrian forces, and rival Palestinian factions arrested, detained, and harassed refugees. Authorities arrested and detained undocumented foreigners, including asylum seekers and refugees for illegal entry, a crime for which the 1962 Law on Entry and Exit specified one to three months imprisonment, a fine, and expulsion. Authorities imprisoned many foreigners, including recognized refugees, past the expiry of their prison term. Although the MOU required the Government to notify UNHCR of detained asylum seekers, it did not do so consistently.

Authorities transferred foreign detainees upon completion of their sentences to the underground General Security detention center, pending release or deportation. Unofficial statistics reveal that as of mid-2004, the total number of foreigners in detention was more than 1,800, or slightly less than half the total prison population of 4,000, including some 200 Iraqis and almost the same number of Sudanese.

Refugees and asylum seekers generally had access to courts. Lebanon subsidized legal aid to nationals of countries providing reciprocal rights to Lebanese nationals, effectively excluding Palestinians. The Government issued identity documents to Palestinian refugees. UNHCR issued identity cards to Convention refugees, but attorneys general, judges, and the judiciary police did not consistently accept them.

Right to Earn a Livelihood  A 1983 resolution prohibited non-Lebanese from working in more than 70 skilled professions, with no exception for refugees, and a 1964 law furthermore imposed a reciprocity condition on membership in professional syndicates – a precondition for employment in professions such as law, medicine, engineering, and journalism. As the MOU did not include the right to work, refugees had no option to work legally except by applying for permission as a foreigner. Under the legislative decree regularizing the work of foreigners in Lebanon, all foreigners needed the prior authorization of the Ministry of Labor to work but the Ministry rarely granted it. The law required foreigners to be experts or professionals who could not be replaced by Lebanese; to have resided in Lebanon before 1954; or to have worked in companies for at least nine consecutive months during the year. A foreigner could also obtain a work permit if he had been married to a Lebanese woman for at least one year; had a Lebanese mother; or was a Lebanese descendant. Foreigners could represent foreign companies only if they had no direct contact with the public. Lebanese law also imposed minimum capital amounts and obligations to engage a certain number of Lebanese workers on foreigners to practice professions. A foreigner working without a work permit could present a case before a court, albeit at the risk of being charged for illegal residency and working illegally.

A 2001 amendment to Lebanon's 1969 property decree prohibited any one not having "nationality of a recognized state" or anyone whose ownership of property is contrary to the Constitution's ban on tawtin (implantation) "to possess real rights of any nature." This effectively and deliberately excluded Palestinians from owning, bequeathing, or even registering property they were buying on installments. (In October, 2003, then-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri described the ban as "unjust" and declared that it would one day be lifted. He was assassinated in February 2005.) Other foreigners could own limited property, subject to the approval of five district offices.

Freedom of Movement and Residence  The government confined some 300 Palestinian militants to camps south of Beirut and refugees and other foreigners had to obtain permission from internal security forces to visit the southern border areas formerly occupied by Israel. According to a 1957 decree, Palestinian refugees who did not reside in camps could freely change their residence, but those in camps had to apply for a permit before moving to other camps.

Palestinian refugees registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) could obtain travel documents valid for five years but those displaced in 1967 could not. UNHCR issued international travel documents to non-Palestinian refugees.

Public Relief and Education  Lebanon allowed humanitarian agencies to assist refugees in the country. For registered Palestinian refugees, UNRWA provided education, operated health clinics, and provided public assistance to those with extreme hardship. In exceptional cases, Lebanese authorities provided relief to individual Palestinian refugees.

The MOU required UNHCR to provide assistance to refugees if their need constituted a public burden. UNHCR covered 85 percent of the health fees for recognized refugees, and the non-governmental organization (NGO) Caritas subsidized insurance to non-recognized refugees. Lebanon's work permit requirement prevented refugees and asylum seekers from receiving social security. The 1963 social security law excluded foreign workers from its benefits unless there was reciprocity.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)  IDPs in Lebanon included those from the civil war, which broke Lebanon into sectarian districts, and the Israeli invasions of 1978 and 1982. The Government offered compensation to rebuild homes but most had not reclaimed their properties. Several hundred thousand landmines located in regions of IDP origin remained buried. In addition, cross-border fighting between Israel and Hizballah continued. The Government set the end of 2002 as the target for the return of all displaced, but 300,000 remained.

Copyright 2005, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants


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