Access to Asylum: The 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 be arrested. Nonetheless, 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 the 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 after 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 issued residency permits for up to 12 months for those to whom the UNHCR accorded refugee status and who applied and paid for the permit. Refugees receiving residency permits continued to be required to apply and pay fees for permit renewal.
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 2011. While some Syrians settled in shelters, approximately 90 percent stayed with host families, who were not always family or friends. At year’s end there were an estimated 170,000 Syrians receiving services from the UNHCR. 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 High Relief Commission and the UNHCR agreed on criteria to determine eligibility for assistance. There were no refugee camps for Syrians.
Refoulement: On August 1, authorities deported 14 Syrians despite the fact that four of them had asked not to be expelled due to fear of persecution if returned to Syrian authorities. The DGS stated that the expulsion of the Syrians was not politically motivated and that the Syrians had committed violations and criminal acts, including theft, attacking the house of an army officer, insulting the military establishment, and use of forged documents.
Press reports noted comments by the Palestinian Human Rights Organization that Palestinians fleeing the conflict in Syria had been turned away at the Lebanese border due to their inability to pay the required visa fees.
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 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 the ISF, as of December 22, there were six foreign detainees who had completed their sentences and were awaiting deportation by the DGS or regularization of their situation in the country.
Syrian refugees residing inside the Lebanese border near Syria faced danger from cross-border shelling and reported Syrian army incursions into Lebanon.
Employment: The law does not distinguish between refugees and other aliens. Non-Palestinian refugees residing in the country legally were allowed to work in certain sectors, provided they had a sponsor for a work permit and could pay the associated fees. In 2010 parliament amended the labor law granting certain employment rights to Palestinian refugees registered with the government, including no-cost work permits, but these amendments were not implemented. These amendments did not address laws that bar Palestinians from jobs that require membership in a professional association.
In 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; these benefits were available only to Palestinians working in the legal labor market. Palestinians do not benefit from national Sickness and Maternity funds or the Family Allowances fund; UNWRA continued to bear the cost of any medical, maternity, or family health-care expenses (excluding workman’s compensation). The law calculates benefits only from August 2010 onward.
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. UNRWA has the sole mandate to provide health, education, social services, and emergency assistance to the 474,053 registered Palestinian refugees residing in the country. The amount of land allocated to the 12 official refugee camps in the country has changed only marginally 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, with the exception of the Nahr el-Bared camp.
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 an income.
Palestinians who fled Syria received limited basic support from UNRWA, including food aid, cash assistance, and winter clothing vouchers. Their children were permitted to enroll in UNRWA schools, and they were able to access UNRWA health clinics. At year’s end there were more than 10,000 Palestinians from Syria registered with the agency.
Iraqi refugees had access to both the public and private education systems. The UNHCR reported that 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 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. Unlike in the previous year, the government’s High Relief Commission did not cover the cost of secondary and tertiary health care as of midyear.
A comprehensive, multiyear plan to rebuild the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp and surrounding communities in eight stages, begun in 2008, was in process, but remaining reconstruction was not fully funded, and only approximately 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 Syrians and Palestinians, the third largest group of refugees in the country was Iraqi. The government did not provide a temporary protection regime for asylum seekers, and it regularly deported refugees and asylum seekers who may have had valid claims to protected status. According to the UNHCR, there were six refugees and asylum seekers in detention at year’s end, and during the year the DGS deported 48 persons of concern despite continuous efforts by the UNHCR. Of the 48 individuals, 32 persons had refugee status and 16 persons were asylum seekers.
The UNHCR continued to intervene with authorities to request the release of persons of concern who either were detained beyond their sentence or for illegal entry/stay.
At year’s end 7,406 Iraqis were registered with the UNHCR. The Danish Refugee Council estimated that 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 did not grant a grace period during the year for foreigners who had fallen into illegal status to regularize their residency in the country.