Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Palestinian rights 2007

Amnesty International has published a damming report on the rights of Palestinian refugees (or lack of) in Lebanon.

The rights group note:

'Today, all 12 official refugee camps in [Lebanon] suffer from serious problems— no proper infrastructure, overcrowding, poverty and unemployment. [Lebanon] has the highest percentage of Palestine refugees who are living in abject poverty and who are registered with the Agency's "special hardship" programme.

'Most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have had little choice but to live in overcrowded and deteriorating camps and informal "gatherings" —unofficial camps that lack basic infrastructure. The land allocated to official refugee camps has barely changed since 1948, despite a fourfold increase in the number of registered refugees.

'Residents have been banned from bringing building materials into some camps, preventing the repair, expansion or improvement of homes, although recently there has been some relaxation of the ban. Those who defy the law face fines and imprisonment as well as demolition of new structures.

'Restrictions in the labour market mean high levels of unemployment, low wages and poor working conditions for Palestinians. Until recently, more than 70 professions were barred to Palestinians— around 20 still are, including law, medicine and engineering. This and other discriminatory treatment compounds the poverty and isolation of Palestinians in Lebanon.

'Medical treatment is expensive in Lebanon and only partially covered by UNRWA for registered Palestinian refugees and not at all for others. Secondary health care is rarely subsidized at all. A shortage of health workers, health facilities and equipment in the camps and gatherings where Palestinians live compounds the poor health care available in practice to refugees.

'Many Palestinian refugees in Lebanon retain the hope that one day they will be able to return to their homes in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. However, until that time, Lebanon must respect, protect and fulfil the rights of Palestinian refugees within its jurisdiction.

To this end, the Lebanese authorities should:
Urgently repeal or revise all laws and policies that directly discriminate against Palestinian refugees;
• Take immediate steps to improve conditions in the camps and gatherings;
• Register all non-ID Palestinian refugees under Lebanese jurisdiction without delay;
• End the discrimination facing Palestinians in the labour market;
• Ensure that adequate health care is available to all;
• Ensure that all children have equal access to education.