This report received the support of the European Commission Humanitarian Department (ECHO), but does not express necessarily the views of the funding agency
I. Executive Summary
Palestinian refugees have been present in Lebanon since 1948. Among the approximately 300,000 to 400,000 refugees present, about 3,000 have no documentation. They are not registered by either the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) or the Lebanese authorities.
Most of these refugees came to Lebanon in the 1970s, mainly in connection with Black September or the war in Lebanon, and at that time did not consider it necessary to seek registration. After the disbanding of the PLO politico-military infrastructure and the strengthening of security control by Lebanese authorities on their territory after the end of the war, the lack of documentation has become a problem.
The situation of the undocumented refugees was, however, unknown until 2001. In 2004, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), in partnership with the Palestine Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) and with the support of the European Commission Humanitarian Department (ECHO), conducted a survey in order to learn more about their situation and to present recommendations with a view to improving it.
Undocumented refugees are faced with restrictions of movement, lack of access to UNRWA services and poor health care. More worryingly, in addition to these difficulties, the second generation faces obstacles in graduating from school, getting married, owning property and generally taking part in ordinary legal or social life activities.
Even if undocumented refugees exhibit the same general socio-economic patterns as all other refugees, they face more difficulties in the sense that they are more isolated. Whereas Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in the same village structures as in their homeland, thus enjoying support from family and neighbours, undocumented refugees have often arrived as single men and experience a lower level of support during difficult times.
Interestingly, most of these refugees, though classified as undocumented, hold some document or other, which may have a double consequence in relation to the legalisation of their situation: their Palestinian identity can be proven and an authority once responsible for their documentation can be traced.
These considerations leave the agencies who tried to support them confident that a solution can be found. There is, however, a need for lobbying about the situation at the same time. The report therefore includes a set of recommendations in this regard.