The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri said today that “some, in the international community, want to disable UNRWA and cancel it if possible”, adding: “Our goal must be clear: fight the abolition of UNRWA and support this agency. If the international community does not want to give money to the refugees, how can we believe in it?”

Speaking at the launching of “the Key Findings of the National Census of Population and Housing in Palestinian Camps and Gatherings in Lebanon” at the Grand Serail, Hariri noted that the really number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is now clear: 174,422. The figures and indicators provided by this comprehensive census draw a clear picture of the reality of the situation of the refugees and contribute to the formulation of projects and plans for the solutions”.

The ceremony was attended by ministers, MPs, diplomats, Lebanese and Palestinian political leaders, heads of international organizations, representatives of the Palestinian and Lebanese civil society and researchers.

This census of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is the first to be conducted by an official Lebanese-Palestinian decision. It was implemented in 2017 through a partnership between the Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, under the umbrella of the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee, and relies on the latest electronic technology.”

The census was based on a decision of the Lebanese Council of Ministers on 25/8/2016, followed by the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Lebanese and Palestinian governments on 19/10/2016.

The Chairman of the Committee Dr. Hassan Mneimneh said in his speech that “one of the most important indications shown by the census, which will guide the course of Lebanese-Palestinian relations in the future, is the possibility of overcoming and breaking many of the long-standing taboos in the country. This is possible through a genuine and responsible dialogue among Lebanese and between the Lebanese and Palestinian parties”.

He added that “the figures reached by the census confirm the need to adopt accurate statistics. The database will allow researchers and international institutions and organizations to use the figures and conclusions to adopt programs that help approach the situation of Palestinian refugees”.

The head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics Ola Awad, who participated in the implementation of the census said that “it is an illustration of real Lebanese-Palestinian collaboration and partnership”. She hoped that “the results would constitute a real opportunity to change the reality of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon at all levels and areas, to explain to the international community their suffering based on facts and figures and to shed the light on the consequences of the Israeli occupation policies on our Palestinian people everywhere”.

She added that “the Palestinian presence in Lebanon and other Arab countries is only temporary, until their return to their homes”.

The Director-General of the Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics Dr. Maral Tutelian Guidanian said that about 1000 Lebanese and Palestinian youth were engaged in the implementation of the field-based census. She added that “an advanced data collection management system was adopted using tablets to fill data instead of the usual paper forms. The updated data were verified by linking the form to the geographical location of the residential units and using geographic information system (GIS).

Additionally, an advanced communication system was linked to the GPS system, which constitutes a quantum leap in the future statistical work at the Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics in terms of the direct impact on the overall quality of the project, the schedule and the expected results.

Hariri said: “First, I would like to thank the Dialogue Committee, the Central Administration of Statistics and the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics for this achievement, despite all the difficulties and obstacles experienced by the country during the stages of the project.

I would like to pay a special tribute to the Palestinian brothers: the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people, for their patience and steadfastness against all plots for more than 70 years, especially today, with the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This decision is a gift for the extremists, a hindrance to the peace process and a factor that produces tension in the region.

I said a few days ago that such a decision would not have happened if the Arab countries were not drowning in wars and conflicts that caused the displacement of millions of Arab citizens at the image of the Palestinian diaspora.

Arab Solidarity today is an urgent need to save Jerusalem, so that Jerusalem remains the capital of the State of Palestine.

We in Lebanon, who are always in solidarity with Palestine, with Jerusalem, with our Palestinian brothers, consider that it is our duty as a state to attend to the problems that the Palestinian refugees are facing in our country.

Solidarity with the Palestinian people is a moral and humanitarian duty before being a national duty.

Lebanon will not abandon its national and humanitarian commitment to the right of the Palestinian people to return to an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Our duties towards our Palestinian brothers living on our territory is a necessity that must be freed from the quarrels and not be turned into a point of disagreement, neither between the Lebanese nor between us and the Palestinians.

Lebanon has not and will not run away from its duties, that must be clear, without any ambiguity, any possible window of opportunity for the settlement (of the Palestinians in Lebanon), or any action against their right to return or that removes their Palestinian identity.

Over the past decades, the social and humanitarian problems of the Palestinian refugees have accumulated, and the reality in the camps has become tragic.

The state cannot stand still and watch the reality worsen year after year, and become a matter that cannot be solved.

The working group document on refugee issues showed that the Lebanese, from all political directions, do not constitute an obstacle for any project that allows Lebanon to assume its responsibilities towards the refugees.

Here I want to salute the committee that started its work amidst the divisions that Lebanon was living in.

A quiet dialogue was taking place in the Serail among all political parties while we were divided. The committee’s work was a very great achievement and I congratulate it on all the proposals it submitted to the government. And I emphasize on this occasion that the government will adopt all these proposals.

There was talk about the number of Palestinian refugees in the country, and we were hearing record numbers in politics. But this committee put things in perspective, the government launched the census, and we have today a good outcome. Some were talking about 400 thousand, 500, or 600 thousand, but today the number is clear: 174,422. This is the real figure and we have duties as a state within the framework of the institutions, dialogue and understanding. The most important thing is to keep talking to each other. The figures and indicators provided by this comprehensive census of population and housing in the Palestinian camps and gatherings in Lebanon draw a clear picture of the reality of the situation of the refugees and contribute to the formulation of projects and plans for the solutions.

Lebanon, which experienced the repercussions of the crises around it, in addition to its own problems and internal issues, considers that the international and Arab sides and the UN organizations are responsible of addressing the situation.

The crisis faced by UNRWA recently, especially the financial crisis that threatens its programs, directly and negatively affects the basic requirements of Palestine refugees in Lebanon.

We call upon the donor countries to increase their contributions and support to enable UNRWA to fulfill its commitments to secure the refugees’ needs and to ensure a just solution to their cause in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy.

Modern societies draw their policies based on accurate figures and data and we aspire to consecrate this experience achieved by the Dialogue Committee, which I thank once again for its work and perseverance in serving the interests of Lebanon and Palestine.

I know that the subject of UNRWA is very important for the Palestinian refugees. I would like to say that the experiences proved that in the end we must work together, because the international community will help, but there are some in the international community who do not want to help but want to disable UNRWA and cancel it if possible. Our goal must be clear: to fight the abolition of UNRWA and to support it.

The reason for the situation of Palestine today is the international community’s failure to resolve its crisis. If the international community does not want to give money to the refugees, what should we tell this international community and how can we believe in it?

I would like to thank everyone, especially the Central Administration of Statistics that did a very professional job”.

After a brief explanation of the methodology and techniques used in the implementation of the census in all its phases, Guidanian announced the main results of the census.

She said that “the number of Palestinian refugees in the camps and gatherings reached 174,422 individuals in 2017, living in 12 camps and 156 Palestinian gatherings in the five governorates of Lebanon.

The results of the census revealed that about 45% of the Palestinian refugees reside in the camps compared with 55% living in Palestinian gatherings in the bordering areas with a 35.8% concentration in Saida, followed by 25.1% in the North, 14.7% in Tyre, 13.4% in Beirut %, 7.1% in Al Shouf and 4% in Bekaa.

The results also showed that there is a change in the demographic composition of the population in the camps, where there are more non-Palestinians than Palestinians in some camps. In the Shatila camp, 57.7% of the displaced are Syrians, compared to 29.7% of the Palestinian refugees. The percentage of displaced in Burj al-Barajneh camp was 47.9% compared to 44.8% of Palestinian refugees. In Mar Elias camp, it was found that 39% of the displaced are Syrians, while in Beddawi the number reached 34.4%.

Moreover, the results showed that the Palestinians in the camps constitute about 72.8%, of whom 65.4% are Palestinian refugees residing in Lebanon, 7.4% are Palestinian refugees from Syria and 4.9% are Palestinian refugees holding a second nationality.

In addition, the results indicated that the illiteracy rate among the Palestinian refugees reached 7.2%, while the labor force reached 51393 individual and the unemployment rate reached 18.4%. The results also indicated that the unemployment rate among individuals aged 15-19 years increased by 43.7% and by 28.5% for the range between 20-29 years.

The data indicated that the number of Palestinian families in the camps and gatherings reached 52,147 families, of which 7.2% were Palestinians married to Lebanese women and 2.4% were Lebanese women married to Palestinians.

Source: National News Agency

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The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri said today that 'some, in the international community, want to disable UNRWA and cancel it if possible', adding: 'Our goal must be clear: fight the abolition of UNRWA and support this agency. If the international community does not want to...