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Amnesty International Slams Lebanese Authorities Over Treatment of Palestinian Refugees

04/07/2014 17:16 BST | Updated 03/09/2014 10:59 BST

In a new report published this week, Amnesty International slams Lebanese authorities for discriminating against Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria.

Amnesty claims that authorities are arbitrarily denying entry to the country for Palestinian men, women and children. This unpredictable border policy is leading to some family members being let in, while others are left behind inside Syria.

In one case, a heavily pregnant Palestinian woman from the besieged Yarmouk camp was only able to cross the border, after a failed first attempt, because a UN worker directly intervened. Her husband and son are still yet to gain access and remain inside Syria.

The Lebanese authorities maintain that "no decision" has been made upon denying entry to Palestinians. However, Amnesty has obtained a leaked document that contradicts this. The document, apparently from the security services, instructed "airlines using the main Beirut airport not to transport any traveller who is a Palestinian refugee from Syria to Lebanon, regardless of the documents they may hold."

Officially, the Lebanese state demands that refugees must present a number of papers before entry; otherwise they will be turned away. The requirements have increased over recent months, however, meaning that it is now "extremely difficult and costly" for both Palestinians and Syrians to gain access to the country.

Amnesty has gathered testimonies from Palestinian and Syria refugees, who say that even after presenting their correct papers and visas, they were still denied access. The human rights group attempted to reach the Ministry of Interior on a number of occasions to discuss this matter, but received no response.

The proportion of Palestinian refugees already inside the country is very small (50,000), compared to that of Syrian refugees who now number over a million.

Lebanon is Syria's smallest-sized and most densely populated neighbor; the vast increase in those seeking residence is putting strain on the county's economy and basic services. And it isn't helped by the fact that the "UN-led humanitarian response is grossly underfunded with only 23% of the 2014 funding requirements for Lebanon met."

So while the Lebanese authorities are being seen as not doing enough to help, in other respects they have their hands tied. The lack of humanitarian funding, concerns for internal security and the current political deadlock, are all ingredients to make a bad situation worse. But if they are trying to avoid the long-term settlement of Palestinians in particular, it doesn't send a good message to other refugee-sheltering nations.