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.
According to a study conducted by the American University of Beirut in 2015, 65 percent of Palestinian refugees in the country lived in poverty, compared to 90 percent of PRS. The study estimated unemployment at 23 and 52 percent for Palestinian refugees and PRS, respectively. 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 June 30, there were 1,033,513 Syrians refugees registered with UNHCR. This total did not include Syrian refugees who arrived in the country in 2015, as UNHCR Lebanon suspended new registration of Syrian refugees after January 2015 in accord with the government’s instructions. There were no formal refugee camps in the country for Syrians. Many Syrian refugees resided with host families, in unfinished buildings, or in temporary tent settlements. More than two-thirds of Syrian refugees 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 5,790 Lebanese pounds ($3.86) 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.
In January 2015 new government regulations banned the entry of all Syrian refugees unless they qualified for undefined “humanitarian exceptions.” During the year the government accepted Syrians seeking asylum only if they qualified under the “humanitarian exceptions” that the Ministry of Social Affairs reviewed on a case-by-case basis. These exceptions included unaccompanied and separated children, persons with disabilities, medical cases, and resettlement cases under extreme humanitarian criteria.
In 2014 authorities began restricting entry into the country for PRS. For PRS to enter from Syria, they must be in possession of an officially validated plane ticket and visa for travel to a third country or have a confirmed embassy appointment in Lebanon. Authorities generally granted PRS who have all the required documentation a 24-hour transit visa. UNRWA reported that the DGS issued some PRS departure orders despite their having paid the renewal fee. Legal status in Lebanon was critical for protection, as it ensured refugees could pass through checkpoints, including to and from camps, complete civil registration processes, and access and remain within the educational system.
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 August there were 18,542 Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. As of June 30, UNHCR also registered 3,530 refugees or asylum seekers from Sudan and other countries.
Freedom of Movement: Authorities imposed curfews in a number of municipalities across the country, allegedly to improve security of all communities. Some international observers raised concerns that these measures may be discriminatory and excessive since authorities almost always enforced them on Syrian refugees only.
Employment: During the year authorities began requiring Syrian refugees who wished to obtain residency permits to pledge to abide by the country’s laws, under which Syrians may work only in agriculture, construction, and cleaning.
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. According to an American University of Beirut study, less than 3.3 percent of Palestinian refugees in country had an official employment contract by a public notary, which enables them to apply for a work permit.
Access to Basic Services: The government did not consider local integration of any refugees a viable 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 experienced worse treatment than other foreign nationals. UNRWA has the sole mandate to provide health, education, social services, and emergency assistance to the 458,000 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 camp and surrounding communities in eight stages began in 2008 and was in process, but remaining reconstruction was not fully funded, and a shortfall of 2,066,097 Lebanese Pounds ($137 million) remained at year’s end. Of the 27,000 Palestinians originally displaced following the crisis, authorities expected approximately 22,000 to return.
A 2001 amendment to a 1969 decree barring persons 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 and registered property prior to the 2001 law entering into force are able to bequeath it to their heirs, but 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 after one year of marriage. According to Lebanese nationality law, the father transmits citizenship to 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 to Lebanon 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. UNRWA’s verification exercise in late summer found that there were approximately 30,000 PRS recorded with the agency, which reflected a decrease of more than 10,000 PRS in the country over the previous 12 months.
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 379,000 school-age Syrian refugee children (ages five to 17). Donor funding to 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 more than 600 Iraqi children 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 country is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention and does not recognize refugees in Lebanon. Authorities termed Syrians “displaced.” While the government consistently reaffirmed its commitment to the principle of nonrefoulement with respect to Syrians, this commitment does not apply to refugees and asylum seekers from other countries, who remained at concrete risk of forced repatriation, particularly those without resettlement prospects.
According to UNHCR, authorities detained 226 refugees and non-Syrian asylum seekers through August, of whom 148 remained in detention at the end of the year. Through August the DGS deported eight persons despite UNHCR’s interventions.
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.