IMF Congress 2002
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Point Paper
Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

Background: As a result of the various conflicts in the region from 1947 to the present, from 200,00 - 400,000 Palestinian refugees currently reside in Lebanon.. According to a 1998 UNRWA report, there were 364,551 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, the majority in 12 refugee camps. Approximately 165,600 registered refugees live outside camps in Lebanon. The above total number of refugees would represent over 13% of the total Lebanese population. These refugees have had major impacts on the Lebanese economy and political balance. The re-settlement or assimilation of these refugees is currently part of the diplomatic efforts concerning the establishment of a Palestinian state, the Golan Heights issue between Syria and Israel, Israeli security arrangements, and creation of secure a Lebanese border. Lebanon is facing a negotiated settlement of Palestinian refugees on its soil, as part of an agreement among others, without representation at the table. Lebanese cannot forget the destructive role played by the Palestinians during the war (mainly between 1975 and 1982), and their actions designed to establish a state within the Lebanese state. A repeat of this history would pose serious threats to the two main achievements of Lebanon in the Arab world: Democracy and Freedom.

Today the Lebanese have reached a consensus, rare in recent history, in their rejection of this settlement because of the negative impact on its very existence, and the historic balance that has created the model of Christian-Muslim interaction in a pluralistic society. The "settlement" of Palestinian refugees would destroy the social and political equilibrium in Lebanon that has been at the basis of its stability and democratic being

Economic Concerns: The ability of Lebanon in today's climate to support itself is questionable. With a large national debt, the ability of the government to cope with the basic infrastructure and social issues of its own citizens has become tenuous at best, even without the refugee problem. The outlook for economic recovery is bleak. There is a shortage of jobs for professionals and a crisis in educational institutions that turn out graduates with no place to go. Naturalizing an additional 200,000-400,000 people would compound these problems inordinately leading to economic meltdown.

The settlement of refugees will worsen the already very high demographic density in Lebanon, the highest in the Middle East. This will aggravate the labor market at a time when tens of thousands of young Lebanese are leaving their country every year because of lack of jobs and business opportunity.

Political Balance: The political balance in Lebanon is based on a confessional division. The division within the Palestinian population would tip that balance marginalizing a major segment of the Lebanese population. This may shatter the unique role Lebanon has played in the region, as a true democracy comprised of multiple minorities.

Retaining Palestinian refugees in Lebanon will sharpen their feelings of deprivation and oppression and may be exploited by radicals or other interested parties, to foment more violence, worsen the security conditions inside their camps, and therefore make these "ghettos" centers of terrorism and radicalism.

Discussion: Lebanon, as one of the authors and original signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains committed to its principles. Lebanon supports the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland in Palestine or Israel as specified in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (11 December 1948) which states that: "..refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.."

The issue of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is both an Arab and international responsibility. Lebanon has provided a haven for the Palestinians for many years at a tremendous economic, political, social and human cost. The nation has suffered wars, economic depression, and depletion of its youth through both emigration and war casualties. Its economy is in shambles. Perpetuation of this state will surely lead to total anarchy and the loss of democracy in the only Arab world democracy remaining.

Desired Outcomes: Request the United States diplomatic efforts:

Recognize Lebanon's unique position and ensure that the Palestinians not be permanently settled in Lebanon.

Ensure that Lebanon is fully and effectively represented in any negotiations regarding the fate of the Palestinians within its borders.

Develop an equitable plan that fully recognizes the rights of the Lebanese people as well as the rights of the Palestinians to their own land in their own homeland.



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