Monday, July 7, 2014

Lebanon illegally mistreating Palestinians from Syria, says new Amnesty report

[Originally posted at NOW]

It’s always been the case that, in Lebanon, the only thing worse than being a Syrian refugee is being a Palestinian refugee from Syria. Compelled from the beginning of the Syrian conflict to pay an additional entrance charge at the Lebanese border, and receiving systematically less aid from their UNRWA donors than Syrians get from UNHCR, Palestinians have also for the most part had to squeeze themselves into Lebanon’s already saturated Palestinian refugee camps, where it’s by no means uncommon to find ten or more people inhabiting a single, bare-brick room.

What a brand-new Amnesty International report published today shows, however, is how much worse this discrepancy has become, and – crucially – how the latest turn of misery has come as a direct and deliberate consequence of official Lebanese policy.

A pregnant mother of five fleeing airstrikes and famine in Damascus’ Yarmouk camp left stranded on the Syrian side of the Masnaa border crossing. A 12-year-old boy separated from his parents and brother since last year. A 61-year-old disabled man unable to receive medical care or see his wife. At least 40 Palestinians forcibly deported, or refouled, from Lebanon back into Syria. These are just some of the victims encountered by Amnesty of Lebanon’s new restrictions on Palestinian refugees from Syria, who are now obliged at the borders to produce things like entry permits approved by Lebanon’s General Security – not the easiest documents to get hold of in the smashed wastelands of Yarmouk.

Other highlights – or, rather, low points – include a leaked memo instructing airlines not to transport any Palestinian refugees from Syria to Lebanon, and countless stories of those who have made it in only to be continuously jerked around by General Security; made to pay sums far beyond their means in return for promises of paperwork that never materialize. And so on.

Such “blatantly discriminatory” measures, as Amnesty calls them, constitute “serious human rights violations” carried out in “clear breach of international law.” The report concludes with a call for authorities to scrap the new restrictions and allow “all persons fleeing the conflict in Syria, including Palestinian refugees who are normally resident in Syria, to enter.” Read it in full here.

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