Refoulement: The government consistently reaffirmed its commitment to the principle of nonrefoulement with respect to Syrians. According to UNHCR, authorities detained refugees and non-Syrian asylum seekers through June, of whom 148 remained in detention at the end of the year. Through August the DGS deported four 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.
Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Nonetheless, the country hosted an estimated 1.5 million refugees.
Palestinian refugees were prohibited from accessing public health and education services or owning land; they 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. This law was not fully implemented, however, 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 more than one million Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR. Since the government instructed UNHCR to stop registering Syrian refugees in early 2015, this total did not include Syrian refugees who arrived in Lebanon after January 2015. There were no formal refugee camps in the country for Syrians. Many Syrian refugees resided with host families or in unfinished substandard buildings, and approximately 18 percent lived in temporary tent settlements, usually with dirt floors, no plumbing, and with a portable heater for winter. According to a UN 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 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.
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 allowed refugees to pass through checkpoints, including to and from camps, complete civil registration processes, and access and remain within the educational system.
In addition to more than 18,000 UNHCR-registered Iraqi refugees already residing in the country, there was a limited influx of Iraqi refugees who entered the country seeking to escape violence from the fight against ISIS. 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 usually enforced them on Syrian refugees only.
Evictions of Syrian refugees occurred in the aftermath of major security incidents and often targeted informal refugee settlements due to their proximity to LAF installations or vital supply routes. According to UNHCR, following the LAF order to evict settlements surrounding the Riyak Airbase in the Bekaa Valley in March, 557 Syrian refugee households (estimated 3,175 individuals) from this area reportedly relocated elsewhere in the country. In addition to the evictions in the Riyak area, Zahle municipality also issued eviction notices to Syrian refugee families starting in the first quarter and continuing in the second quarter of the year.
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.
The law allows 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).
Access to Basic Services: The government did not consider local integration of any refugees a viable solution.
The law considers UNRWA-registered Palestinian refugees to be foreigners. UNRWA has the sole mandate to provide health, education, social services, and emergency assistance to registered Palestinian refugees residing in the country. The amount of land allocated to the 12 official Palestinian refugee camps in the country had 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. Remaining reconstruction was not fully funded, however, and a shortfall of 159 million Lebanese pounds ($106 million) remained at year’s end. Of the 27,000 Palestinians originally displaced following the crisis, authorities expected approximately 21,000 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 could 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 the country’s 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.
Palestinian refugees who fled Syria to Lebanon since 2011 received limited basic support from UNRWA, including food aid, cash assistance, and winter assistance. Authorities permitted children of PRS to enroll in UNRWA schools and access UNRWA health clinics. UNRWA’s verification exercise in 2016 found that there were approximately 32,500 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 195,000 non-Lebanese students, predominantly Syrian refugees, in public schools in the 2016-17 academic year, or 41 percent of the more than 488,000 registered Syrian refugee children between the ages of three and 18. 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 lifesaving and obstetric care.
Iraqi refugees had access to both the public and private education systems. UNHCR’s education partners reported that authorities enrolled approximately 600 Iraqi children in formal public schools for the 2016-17 school year, 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.