Access to Asylum: The country's laws do not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status. As a result, more than 70 percent of refugees registered with the UNHCR did not have any legal status and were liable to arrest. Nonetheless, in practice the government provided some protection through ad-hoc arrangements. The government granted admission and temporary (six-month) refuge to asylum seekers, but not permanent asylum. The DGS sometimes arbitrarily detained asylum seekers at its detention facility for more than a year and then deported them.
An agreement between the DGS and UNHCR recognized and granted protection to non-Palestinian refugees, providing temporary relief for those seeking determination of refugee status. Those wishing to claim refugee status must do so within two months of arriving in the country. The DGS issues residence permits, valid for three months, during which time the UNHCR must make a refugee status determination. The DGS extended residency permits for as long as 12 months for those to whom the UNHCR accorded refugee status.
There was a significant influx of Syrians who entered Lebanon to escape escalating violence after the start of mass unrest in Syria beginning in mid-March. While some Syrians settled in shelters, approximately 90 percent stayed with host families, who were not always families or friends. At year’s end there were 4,840 Syrians registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon. The government does not officially recognize these persons as refugees, and it limits the freedom of movement for individuals who entered the country illegally. The Lebanese Higher Relief Commission and UNHCR have agreed on criteria to determine eligibility for assistance. There were no refugee camps for Syrians.
Refugee Abuse: According to the UNHCR, domestic courts often sentenced Iraqi and African refugees officially registered with the UNHCR to one month’s imprisonment and fines instead of deportation for illegal entries. After serving their sentences, most refugees remained in detention unless they found employment sponsors and the DGS agreed to release them in coordination with the UNHCR.
In a February 2010 request to the government, 14 local and international NGOs called for the release of migrants and refugees who had completed their sentences but continued to be detained without a legal basis. According to a 2009 ISF report, 13 percent of detainees were foreign nationals who had completed their sentences, and were awaiting deportation by the DGS or regularization of their situation in the country.
Employment: The law does not distinguish between refugees and other aliens. Non-Palestinian refugees residing in the country legally were allowed to work on the legal labor market in certain sectors, provided they had a sponsor for a work permit and could pay the associated fees. In August 2010 parliament amended the Labor Law granting certain employment rights to Palestinian refugees registered with the government, including no-cost work permits, but their access to certain professions remained restricted.
In August 2010 parliament also amended the Social Security Law setting up a special account to provide end-of-service indemnities or severance pay for Palestinian refugees who retired or resigned. By year’s end the Ministry of Labor had not issued implementing regulations, which limited the impact of this change. Under the proposal the UNWRA continued to bear the cost of any medical, maternity, or family health-care expenses.
Access to Basic Services: By law UNRWA-registered Palestinian refugees are considered foreigners, and in several instances they were accorded poorer treatment than other foreign nationals. The UNRWA has the sole mandate to provide health, education, social services, and emergency assistance to the 427,732 registered Palestinian refugees residing in the country at the end of August. The amount of land allocated to the 12 official refugee camps in the country has only marginally changed since 1948, despite a four-fold increase in the population. Consequently, most Palestinian refugees lived in overpopulated camps, some of which were subjected to heavy damage during multiple conflicts. In accordance with their agreement, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) security committees, not the government, provided security for refugees in the camps.
Property laws directly and effectively exclude Palestinians due to a 2001 amendment to a 1969 decree barring persons without the nationality of a recognized state from owning land and property. Palestinians who owned property prior to the law entering into force are unable to bequeath it to their heirs, and individuals who were in the process of purchasing property in installments were unable to register the property.
Palestinian refugees residing in the country were not able to obtain citizenship and were not citizens of any other country. Palestinian refugee women married to citizens were able to obtain citizenship and transmit citizenship to their children. Palestinian refugees, including children, had limited social and civil rights and no access to public health, education, or other social services. Children of Palestinian refugees faced discrimination in birth registration, and many had to leave school at an early age to earn income.
Iraqi refugees had access to both the public and private education systems. The UNHCR reported approximately 1,700 Iraqi children were registered in schools, and it provided grants to the children to help defray the costs associated with attending school. Iraqi refugees also had access to the primary health-care system. The UNHCR, through NGOs, provided secondary health care.
Syrians who had fled to Lebanon had access to the public education system. The Ministry of Education facilitated their enrollment in public schools, and the UNHCR covered school-related expenses such as school fees, books, and uniforms. The UNHCR had arranged with the ministries of social affairs and public health for registered Syrians to access designated public health centers and local clinics for primary care services, and the organization covered the bulk of the costs. The government’s Higher Relief Commission covered the cost of secondary and tertiary health care.
Durable Solutions: At year’s end the UNRWA reported that 16,755 refugees had returned to areas adjacent to the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, which was destroyed in a 2007 fight between the LAF and terrorists from Fatah al-Islam, and 26,244 Nahr el-Bared residents remained displaced. Displaced communities raised concerns about their security and freedom of movement in response to the LAF’s security measures around the camp. A comprehensive, three-year plan to rebuild the Nahr el-Bared camp and surrounding communities in eight stages, begun in 2008, was in process, but remaining reconstruction was not fully funded, and less than half of the required donations had been secured by year’s end.
The government did not consider local integration of other refugees, such as Iraqis, a viable durable solution.
Temporary Protection: After Palestinians, the second largest group of refugees in the country was Iraqi. The government did not provide a temporary protection regime for Iraqi asylum seekers, and it regularly deported Iraqis who may have had valid persecution claims. According to the DGS, there were 13 Iraqis in detention at year’s end, and during the year the DGS deported 80 irregular Iraqi immigrants to Iraq.
At year’s end 9,353 Iraqis were registered with the UNHCR. The Danish Refugee Council estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Iraqis were living in the country; many entered the country illegally in search of jobs, education, and security. During the year the government provided limited services for Iraqi refugees. The DGS granted a three-month grace period from April 15 to July 15 for foreigners who had fallen into illegal status to regularize their residency in the country. The grace period was extended twice, from July 15 to October 26 and for Iraqis and Nigerians from October 26 to January 26, 2012.