(BEIRUT): By NAJIA HOUSSARI
Activists in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon have staged their third sit-in on Wednesday to demand immigration to a third country.
The participants, who gathered at the Martyrs’ Square in the center of Beirut, carried the flags of Palestine, Canada, European nations and Australia, in reference to their demand that these countries open their doors to Palestinian immigrants.
In the absence of accurate figures by embassies on the number of Palestinian refugees who have applied for immigration from Lebanon and been accepted, the Lebanese General Security remains the one monitoring the refugees who leave Lebanese territory by air and do not return after more than a month, said a Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC) source.The source told Arab News: “We have been monitoring this phenomenon for some time and noticed that it has recently increased.”
Wednesday’s sit-in, in which hundreds of people took part, has come after two sit-ins organized by the Palestinian Youth Organization outside the Canadian Embassy in Lebanon.One of participants said: “Life in Lebanon has become very difficult for us — we can no longer bear it. UNRWA has curtailed its services, and Lebanon prevents us from working. How can we live?”
Lebanon’s labor minister had launched a plan to combat foreign workers, targeting Palestinian and Syrian refugees. This led to a campaign of mass protests in Palestinian camps. Communication intensified between the leaders in the Palestinian camps and the Lebanese side to contain the repercussions of the decision.Hamas representative in Lebanon, Dr. Ahmed Abdel Hadi, believed that “what is happening is not innocent.”
He told Arab News: “There is economic, security, political and social pressure on the Palestinian people, in addition to the absence of civil rights for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, giving our people a tragic life.”
“There are no job opportunities for university graduates, nor can they afford education, medicine and even a life,” he said.“Refugee homes in the camps are ramshackle and need maintenance. There are also overcrowded houses because the Lebanese authorities prevented the entry of building materials into the camps. All of this makes a Palestinian refugee wonder what he can do in the future.”
Abdel Hadi said that these pressures coincide with talks about the deal of the century and ending the asylum issue. He asked: “Why is there interest in this matter now? And why are there so many protests? Is the goal to put refugees in this tragic situation? Are embassies being pressured to accept refugees? And why is Australia accepting so many refugees?”
The Hamas official refused to give any statistics on the number of refugees who have recently left Lebanon and the truth behind talks that the camps have been emptied, but he revealed to Arab News that “entire families have left Lebanon and immigrated.”
He highlighted that Australia is currently the most welcoming country for Palestinian refugees. “There are families whose immigration applications have been accepted, and they have traveled. There are also individuals whose applications have been accepted, and they traveled in the hope of getting reunited with their families.”
Abdel Hadi highlighted that “the Nordic countries received in previous years a large number of Palestinian refugee families from Lebanon, but Australia is now the new destination.”He refused to blame the Palestinian refugees for “emigration in search of a dignified life,” stressing that “the Palestinian leaders should uphold the right of return and coordinate with our brothers in Lebanon to face the resettlement and displacement project.”
The latest statistics implemented by the Lebanese and Palestinian authorities in the Palestinian refugee camps showed that there are only 174,422 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Palestinian leaders estimate that there are 240,000 refugees in Lebanon.