Wednesday, October 4

“I am not a criminal, I fight to ensure a decent life for my children”

Am Palestine refugee and I have suffered discrimination since I was born. I never got an identity card to identify me. My identity document was limited to a blue piece of paper with my name on it: “Rayan”. I wrote it myself by hand.

Discrimination against the Palestinian population in Lebanon does not take the usual recognized form of any discrimination, exclusion, or preference based on race, color, descent, or origin, since both Palestinians and Lebanese are Arabs, of the same skin color, speak the same language and in ancient history lived as a single entity before the French and British rule over the two countries.

Successive Lebanese governments adopt a politics of marginalization and isolation against the Palestinian population that deprives them of their most basic human rights, despite their presence on Lebanese territory since 1948.

Samiha Kharaei, 18, is a refugee from Palestine and lives in the Lebanese Bekaa. She participated in the Arabic reading contest in Lebanon in UNRWA school representation “Wadi Al-Hawarth” and achieved a place in the top ten, but was denied travel to Dubai, where the next phase of the contest was taking place. “The education minister refused to allow a refugee to represent Lebanon abroad,” says Samiha.

“Many of us stand out, but being a refugee limits my steps, even though I am Arab. The first slap what i took was when I was banned from participating in the fourth stage of the contest that was held in Dubai. They didn’t let me travel. They only honored me from behind the curtain.” It’s fine is the phrase that Samiha repeated to herself, between mixed feelings of pride and sadness, to finish writing a book that would allow her to stay in the contest. “Again I won a place among the first. This time there was not even a tribute. I can’t describe what I felt. It was a great shock that made me stop writing. I hated reading, I couldn’t stand looking at books. For the first time I moved away from literature.

7 years ago, Amin Salah, 45, attempted to take his own life after Security Forces arrested him while working as a taxi driver. The Lebanese Labor Law does not allow Palestinians to hold a public driver’s license and be a taxi driver, so the police fined him 5 million Lebanese pounds, the equivalent of $4,500. Palestinians can only work in unskilled professions and they are deprived of exercising 36 professions from different unions, such as medicine or engineering.

“I have paid innumerable fines, every two days I am stopped by patrols. Although it brings me problems, I continue with this profession because I have no other option. What I am going to do? I couldn’t finish my studies and even if I had completed my studies, I wouldn’t have been able to practice. What was I going to be, a doctor?”, Amin bluntly affirms, the only economic supporter of his family made up of 4 small children. “I am not a criminal, I fight to ensure a decent life for my childrenI hope that they finish their education and study at the university, their future is my priority”.

Systematized discrimination in Lebanon against Palestinians

The majority of Palestine refugees living in Lebanon are in a peculiar and discriminatory situation. Not being formally citizens of another state, they cannot claim the same rights as other foreigners living and working in Lebanon.

In 2001, a resolution allowing all nationalities, from an internationally recognized country, to own property in Lebanon. Refugees from Palestine were excluded. This causes the Palestinian population to sometimes register their properties in the name of a Lebanese stranger in exchange for money.

In 2019, then Foreign Minister Gobran Bassil announced his agreement to “grant Lebanese women the right to grant Lebanese citizenship to their partner, with except for women married to a Palestinian.. The minister opposed Lebanese women passing citizenship to their Syrian or Palestinian husbands and sons.

On June 22, 2020, a circular was issued to deal with the collapse of the Lebanese currency, indicating the conditions required to obtain dollars at currency exchange offices and stipulated that it be limited to the Lebanese citizen. If the situation was already complicated for the Palestine refugee population in Lebanon, the country’s economic and financial crisis is finally sinking them. At the moment, 9 out of 10 refugees live in extreme poverty following the Beirut port explosion in 2020, which is a 55% increase from just one year earlier.

After seven decades of asylum, what the Palestinian population in Lebanon asks for are nothing more than civil rights that allow them to live with dignity in a country where they took refuge due to the Israeli occupation of their land, Palestine.

On UNRWA we work so that the Palestine refugee population in the country can prosper and have a future, covering their basic rights such as health and education, among others. You can help them too.