Decades in limbo

Palestinians in Lebanon tell of their plight.

Stateless Palestinians have fled the battered Nahr al-Bared refugee camp [AFP]

Nearly six decades after the creation of Israel, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are still living as refugees in neighbouring Arab countries.

The vast majority of Palestinians in the world today are stateless – that is, there is no state that recognises them as their nationals.

The most vulnerable group are so called non-ID refugees, not registered by either the UN Relief and Works Agency or the Lebanese authorities.

Zeina Khodr reports on those who are not only stateless, but also without a legal identity.

Many children look forward to a life of opportunity. But at the age of 10, Mohammed Rantissi appears to be stuck in a futile trap because he doesn’t have the right papers.

His father, Abdel Aziz, has already been condemned to living that life and cannot find a legal job.

The Rantissis are Palestinians without identity papers and the Lebanese state does not recognise their existence.

“My husband came here after fleeing Gaza decades ago,” says Amni Rantissi.

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Watch Zeina Khodr’s full report here

“He had a travel document from Egypt which he lost during the Lebanese civil war.

“The Egyptians refused to replace it and the Lebanese government won’t give him official papers.”

There are more than 3,000 people without identity papers in the country.

Without those papers, Palestinians cannot register their children or travel outside the country and most of the time they dare not even leave the refugee camp because they could be stopped at security checkpoints.

Camp clashes 

Ghida Rantissi, Mohammed’s sister, told us that they have a right to a future just like other children across the world

And now the Rantissi family face a new misery.

Amni Rantissi faces many difficulties
without identity papers

They have been stripped of all their belongings – displaced from the fighting at Naher al-Bared refugee camp and settled in the nearby camp of Baddawi.

Palestinians have had a long history of suffering here.

They are stateless, refugees with little basic rights and even some without any identity.

More than 30,000 are homeless without a community to return to – again.

Their homes in Naher al-Bared are nothing more than skeletal remains because of the clashes between the Lebanese army and fighters from a group known as Fatah al-Islam.

It will take more than a year before their homes are rebuilt.

Decades in limbo

Generations of Palestinian refugees grow up in the small streets and narrow alleyways in camps across Lebanon.

UN relief workers provide some help – but in yet another cruel twist, that help is limited because stateless people do not have Lebanese IDs.

Huda Samra, a spokesman for UNRWA, the body that provides services to Palestinian refugees, says: “The government promised to look into their situation and settle their problem without giving details on how this will happen.”
These families have spent decades marking time and waiting.

Isdihar is waiting for some sort of legal documentation. She says her husband lost his Jordanian passport during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon 25 years ago.

Isdihar Abdullah, another Palestinian refugee without an identity card, says: “We went to the embassy many times. They didn’t replace the papers. I am worried about my children’s future.”

Another generation is now growing up facing an empty and uncertain life, casting around in the hope that someone will provide them with the shelter of a national identity.

Source : Al Jazeera


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