An estimated 20,000 Iraqis are living in Lebanon. The majority arrived after the year 2000. However the number of arrivals seems on the increase, and this is particularly true for the Christian minority. Many have lived through traumatic events and are escaping persecution and violence. The population originates mainly from Baghdad, but residents from 15 other governorates were interviewed. It is mainly composed of Shiite Muslim, and, as a second group, by Christians. The population is relatively young, and about half of them are single. In Lebanon, Iraqis who have fled the war and/or persecution are not provided with a residence permit, even when they are recognised refugees by UNHCR. They live illegally in Lebanon. They live mainly as single households in rented apartments in working class areas. They work in the informal employment market, as they do not hold a work permit. Often, their current occupation is not at the same level as the one they had in Iraq. Cases of child labour have also come to light. The biggest problem expressed by Iraqis themselves is the lack of documentation, and the subsequent fear of moving around, of being arrested and deported. A majority of Iraqis do not feel safe in their country of asylum whilst those who are recognised as refugees feel even more unsafe than the rest of the population, and are not protected against refoulement. Another problem often referred to is the health situation, and the lack of support for health care. The cost of health services must be met by the family, with sometimes the help of a charitable or humanitarian organisation. Access to education is limited. More than half of the households do not send their children to school, mainly due to financial constraints. The general level of education has been found to be low. Available assistance is provided mainly by NGOs, but it is often not sufficient, and is also not available in all regions of Lebanon. The host community is generally seen as welcoming and supportive, though due to their legal status and the fear of being deported many Iraqis avoid contact. Most of the Iraqis are currently not considering repatriation, mainly in relation to the security situation and the fear of persecution. They are looking for security, respect of their rights, access to work and health care. In many cases, they consider resettlement to a third country as the best possible solution for the time being.
About refugees in Lebanon
Although not a signatory of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Lebanon is host to several hundred thousand refugees. The country has, throughout history, been a safe haven for various persecuted minorities in the Middle-East. At present, the largest number of refugees in Lebanon is that of the Palestinians. About 400,000 Palestinians are registered in Lebanon with the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), while about 35,000 Palestinians are registered with the Lebanese authorities only, and a group estimated at 3,000 persons is not registered at all. The second largest group of refugees and persons in refugee-like situations in Lebanon are Iraqis. They constitute an estimated 20,000 persons, while large groups of refugees in Lebanon include persons from Sudan, Somalia and Sierra Leone. For these groups, and in the absence of a national asylum procedure, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) carries out the refugee status determination procedure in the country based on its mandate. However recognition of refugee status by UNHCR does not mean eligibility for providing the refugees with residence permit, work permit, or any other form of legalisation nor integration in Lebanon. Most of the time, refugees are supported by family, religious institutions, NGOs and charity organisations. The economic crisis striking the country for more than 10 years has weakened the support capacity of the community, and the growing control of the territory by government since the war (1975-1990) has created a new source of fear for the undocumented refugees and persons in refugee-like situations.