Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the country is not a party to either the 1951 convention relating to the status of refugees or the 1967 protocol.
While 450,000 Palestinian refugees were officially registered with UNRWA, many estimated the number to be less than 300,000 due to emigration. One-half of refugees were under age 25, two-thirds lived below the poverty line, and one-third suffered from chronic illness. Palestinian refugees were prohibited from accessing public health and education services or owning land and were barred from employment in many fields, making refugees dependent upon UNRWA as the sole provider of education, health care, and social services. A 2010 labor law revision expanded employment rights and removed some restrictions on Palestinian refugees; however, this law was not fully implemented, and Palestinians remained barred from working in most skilled professions, including almost all those that require membership in a professional association.
As of November 30, there were 1,070,189 Syrians registered with UNHCR, fleeing the civil war that broke out in 2011. There were no formal refugee camps in Lebanon for Syrians. Many Syrian refugees resided in temporary tent settlements, with host families, or in unfinished buildings. More than two-thirds of Syrian refugees in Lebanon lived in extreme poverty. A UN assessment of more than 4,000 refugee households found that an estimated 70 percent lived below the Lebanese extreme poverty line of $3.84 per day. According to the study, the refugees borrowed to cover even their most basic needs, including rent, food, and health care, putting nearly 90 percent of them in debt.
On January 5, new government regulations banned the entry of all Syrian refugees unless they qualified for undefined “humanitarian exceptions.” UNHCR nevertheless continued to register Syrian refugees, and in the first quarter of the year registered 2,626 new arrivals who managed to enter after the cut-off date and 36,189 who were already in the country before the cut-off date. Accusing UNHCR of deception, the Ministry of Social Affairs on April 24 directed UNHCR to deregister the 2,626 new arrivals. On May 4, the ministry further directed UNHCR to cease all registrations, including registrations of those who had arrived before January 5, until a mechanism could be established to deal with “humanitarian exceptions.” Due to the government’s instruction to UNHCR to suspend registration as of May 6, there were no Syrians awaiting registration.
UNRWA reported that the DGS issued some Palestinian refugees from Syria departure orders despite having paid the renewal fee. Legal status in Lebanon was critical for protection from the authorities, as it ensured they could pass through checkpoints, including to and from camps, complete civil registration processes, and receive official exam results for students.
There was also a limited influx of Iraqi refugees who entered the country seeking to escape violence from the fight against Da'esh. As of November 28, there were 13,122 Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR in Lebanon.
Refugee Abuse: Multiple NGOs and UNHCR shared reports of sexual harassment and exploitation by government employers and landlords of refugees, including paying workers below the minimum wage, working excessive hours, debt bondage, and pressuring families into early marriage for their daughters or nonconsensual sex.
The government lacked the capacity to provide adequate protection for refugees. Refugees regularly reported abuse by members of political parties and gangs, often without official action in response. Additionally, LAF raids on settlements often resulted in harassment and destruction of personal property.
According to UNHCR domestic courts often sentenced Iraqi and African refugees registered with UNHCR to one month’s imprisonment and fines instead of deporting them for illegal entry. After serving their sentences, most refugees remained in detention unless they found employment sponsors and the DGS agreed to release them in coordination with UNHCR.
Employment: A pledge to not work is a requirement for Syrian refugees to obtain residency permits. Syrians who were not refugees were allowed to work, provided they had a sponsor for a work permit and could pay the associated fees.
A 2010 amendment to the social security law created a special account to provide end-of-service indemnities or severance pay to Palestinian refugees who retired or resigned. These benefits were available only to Palestinians working in the legal labor market. Palestinians did not benefit from national sickness and maternity funds or the family allowances fund. UNRWA continued to bear the cost of any medical, maternity, or family health-care expenses (excluding worker’s compensation). The law provides for benefits only from 2010 onward.
Access to Basic Services: The government did not consider local integration of any refugees a viable, durable solution. After Syrians and Palestinians, Iraqis were the third-largest group of refugees in the country.
The law considers UNRWA-registered Palestinian refugees to be foreigners, and in several instances they received poorer treatment than other foreign nationals. UNRWA has the sole mandate to provide health, education, social services, and emergency assistance to the 450,000 registered Palestinian refugees residing in the country. The amount of land allocated to the 12 official Palestinian 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 heavily damaged during past conflicts. In accordance with agreements with the government, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) security committees provided security for refugees in the camps, with the exception of the Nahr el-Bared camp. A comprehensive, multi-year plan to rebuild the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp and surrounding communities in eight stages began in 2008 and was in process, but remaining reconstruction was not fully funded, and only 60 percent of the required donations were secured by year’s end.
A 2001 amendment to a 1969 decree barring persons who are explicitly excluded from resettling in the country from owning land and property was designed to exclude Palestinians from purchasing or inheriting property. Palestinians who owned property prior to the law entering into force were 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 could not obtain citizenship and were not citizens of any other country. Palestinian refugee women married to Lebanese 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 since 2011 received limited basic support from UNRWA, including food aid, cash assistance, and winter assistance. Authorities permitted their children to enroll in UNRWA schools and access UNRWA health clinics. As of November there were approximately 42,000 Palestinians refugees from Syria recorded with the agency.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education facilitated the enrollment of more than 157,000 Syrian students in public schools in the 2015-16 academic year, and enrollment continued at year’s end. Donor funding was available to support 200,000 children to enroll; however, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated there were approximately 510,000 school-age Syrian refugee children. UN agencies covered school-related expenses, such as school fees, books, and uniforms. Syrian refugees had access to many government and private health centers and local clinics for primary care services, and UN agencies and NGOs funded the majority of associated costs. Syrian refugees had access to a limited number of UNHCR-contracted hospitals for emergency care.
Iraqi refugees had access to both the public and private education systems. UNHCR reported that 739 Iraqi children were registered in public schools, and it provided grants to the children’s families to help defray the costs associated with attending school. Iraqi refugees also had access to the primary health-care system. UNHCR, through NGOs, provided secondary health care.
Temporary Protection: 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 UNHCR, 331 refugees and asylum seekers were detained during the year, of whom 176 remained in detention as of October 15. During the year the DGS deported 15 persons despite UNHCR objections.
UNHCR continued to intervene with authorities to request the release of persons of concern who were detained either beyond their sentence or for illegal entry or presence.