Monday, June 28, 2010

Lebanese and Palestinians demonstrate for more rights for refugees

Thousands have demonstrated in Downtown Beirut Sunday to pressure the government into granting full civil and economic rights to the 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon. Groups from the country’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps joined with politicians, activists as well as Lebanese and Palestinian NGOs in pushing for the right to work and the right to own property.
Calls to improve access to the Nahr al-Bared camp, which has remained under strict military guard since the outbreak of hostilities between the army and extremist group Fatah al-Islam in 2007, also featured prominently in the event.
The demonstration, thought to have numbered over 5,000, took place outside of the UN headquarters. It was originally scheduled for outside Parliament but permission was denied by the army. Representatives for the Lebanese Communist Party, the Progressive Socialist Party and the Fatah Movement all spoke or at the event.
Luisa Morgantini, former vice president of the European Parliament and chair of the Delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council addressed the crowd through a pre-recorded message. The Future Movement, which organizers claim had promised to send speakers, and who have publicly come out in support of the right to work, failed to send representatives.
The protest culminated with the low-key delivery of a petition to Adnan Daher, Secretary General of the Lebanese Parliament. It contained calls for the right to own property, the right to mobility and the elimination of Article 59 of the work law, which restricts the Palestinian right to work.
The organizers are discussing an additional protest timed to coincide with the next parliamentary debate on Palestinian rights, scheduled for July 5. The Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Jumblatt introduced plans in parliament to improve the conditions for the Palestinians. The draft was rejected by a coalition of Christian parties, led by the Kataeb-party, who fear that granting rights will be the first step to full naturalization. Despite remaining marginalized in many cases, Palestinian refugees living in Syria, Jordan and other parts of the Arab world have largely been granted equal citizenship rights, if not given outright nationality.The Palestinians in Lebanon however don´t ask to be naturalized.

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