New Palestinian refugees cause strain on Lebanon's camps
The large influx of Palestinian refugees from Syria has sparked heavy competition in the Palestinian camps and gatherings in Lebanon, with longtime residents losing jobs as well as access to basic medical and educational services.
“With the addition of 30 thousand new refugees fleeing Syria, gathering representatives reported that original dwellers are losing jobs because they are being replaced by new refugees who are demanding lower wages,” said a joint UNDP and UN-Habitat report released Tuesday during a ceremony at the Grand Serail.
The report highlights the fact that a Palestinian worker earns on average a monthly income of LL537 thousand, which is less than 80 percent of the Lebanese minimum wage.
Palestinian refugees also suffer from harsh work restrictions that narrow down employment opportunities to manual labor or informal jobs.
The increase in unemployment results from an increase in competition on available jobs, with an ever growing amount of refugees competing over a limited supply of work opportunities.
Under the title of “Profiling Deprivation,” the report revealed that the 42 gatherings for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon were originally inhabited by about 110 thousand residents before the outbreak of the Syrian crisis.
With the influx of about 53 thousand Palestinian refugees from Syria, the camps have become overburdened, with 27 thousand new residents living in the twelve official camps.
Reported forecasts expect the number of Palestinian refugees from Syria to increase to about 55 thousand in Lebanon by the end of 2014.
With regards to health facilities, hospitals and medical facilities in Palestinian gatherings, these have been overwhelmed with a “larger consumer base, utilizing the same facilities and creating greater competition with the original dwellers.”
According to the report, the lack of access to hygiene has introduced a new wave of health problems amoung the incoming refugees, such as lice and tuberculosis.
The negative sentiment harbored towards Palestinian refugees from Syria has spilled over into UNRWA schools, where discrimination and bullying of students from Syria was reported to be widely prevalent.
The arrival of refugees from Syria has exerted pressure on the educational facilities that are struggling to absorb the number of new enrollments.
With regards to the pressing unemployment problem, the report called for coordination efforts with the Ministry of Labor in order to issue fast-track work permits for refugees who suffer from severe job restrictions.
It also suggested the inclusion of Palestinian employees into a specialized account in the National Social Security Fund.
As such, Palestinian refugees would benefit from end-of-service indemnities but not from family, illness and maternity allowances.
It also stressed the need to resolve the medication shortage, adding the need to provide affordable options for health care to cover wider range of specializations.
The joint UNDP and UN Habitat report analyzed the rapid needs of Palestinian gatherings in host communities in Lebanon, citing necessary reforms in the fields of housing, basic urban services, education, health services and the labor market.