Most studies on Palestinian refugees generally describe camps in Lebanon as the worst among other host Arab States. For six decades, refugees, especially the camp population, have been living in extremely difficult living conditions that lack the most basic standards of human dignity and fundamental human rights. According to the latest survey conducted by UNRWA in cooperation with the American University of Beirut prior to the Lebanese economic crisis, the poverty rate in Palestinian society in Lebanon was 66%.
The Palestinians in Lebanon are divided into three groups: refugees registered with UNRWA and also registered with the Lebanese authorities, refugees registered with the Lebanese authorities but not registered with UNRWA, and refugees not registered with UNRWA or the Lebanese authorities, and therefore, they are the category that does not have “IDs”.
The Suffering of Palestinian refugees with “no identification papers”
The Palestinians with “no IDs” are the people who came to Lebanon through other Arab States (Jordan, Egypt) in 1967 and don’t have a refugee card, which is only issued according to UNRWA definition of refugee 1948. According to the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Commission (the Committee’s website), an estimated 3,500 to 5,000 people have been living illegally in Lebanon, exposing many of them to prosecution and punishment.
Starting mid-2008, the Lebanese General Directorate of Public Security agreed to provide identification cards to a number of Palestinians in Lebanon, but this procedure was disrupted after 2010 due to the “unstable political and regional conditions that negatively impacted” Lebanon. Members of this category suffer from deprivation of a wide range of rights.
The delegates of the missing persons in Lebanon expressed their suffering through a statement they issued, stressing that they were seeking nothing more than reassurance, stability and security and repeatedly demanding recognition of a legal personality for themselves, their families in Lebanon and abroad.
It is noteworthy that the suffering of this category was not visible to the public until the 1996 incident – when a Palestinian young man of the “no identification paper category” was asked about his identity at one of the Lebanese army checkpoints and he ran away, but soon he was shot dead by the Lebanese army. It was later revealed that the person had no identification paper and therefore, he carries a false identity and fears imprisonment for forgery which caused his death. After this incident, researchers began to seriously find solutions to their legal status with human rights associations.
Palestinian with no “identification paper” are deprived of their legal, civil and economic rights and are not recognised as legal persons
Palestinians in Lebanon, who are known as the “No ID people”, live in harsh living and social conditions that go beyond what their refugee counterparts suffer in the camps. The living conditions of those without identity papers became more difficult after the withdrawal of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation from Lebanon in 1982, and the end of the Lebanese civil war following the signing of the Taef Agreement in 1989.
As a result of not having identification papers, the refugees are deprived of movement, travel, and even hospitalisation in public hospitals, unlike those registered with the UNRWA. At best, they are given an identification card from the Palestinian embassy in Beirut, which does not enable its owner to travel or leave Lebanon, register a marriage contract, issue a birth certificate, or even register a new car or house in his name.
A resident of Ain Al-Hilwa camp noted that the holders of these papers paid the State a settlement for each year of residency in Lebanon, worth $200 per person, without being provided with the most basic rights.
In turn, the Director-General of the Palestinian Human Rights Foundation “Shahed” D. Mahmoud Hanafi, confirmed that this group suffers twice as much as the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, as they continue to suffer pain, violation of their rights, marginalisation and legal exclusion.
Palestine refugee host states and concerned international organisations share a common responsibility to protect them, as they cannot resort to the authorities of their countries for protection.
Cooperation with other United Nations agencies is also important to put end to this tragedy. For example, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has long been working to improve birth registration and civil registration, and UNFPA can assist Governments in designing and implementing national statistics, while the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights supports monitoring the human rights of stateless persons.