First census reveals 174,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

At least 174,422 Palestinian refugees are living in Lebanon, according to a census organized by the Lebanese government, on Thursday. (Photo courtesy OCHA)
Updated 21 December 2017
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First census reveals 174,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

BEIRUT: There are just over 174,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, the first census of Palestinians in the country has revealed.

The count was carried out by the government’s Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee in 12 refugee camps and about 150 informal Palestinian communities.

The census figure of 174,422 is lower than many in Lebanon had believed.

“Some people talked about 400,000, 500,000 or 600,000, and these would be used in politics,” Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on Thursday at the announcement of the census result in Beirut. “The record has been set straight now. Our responsibilities toward our Palestinian brothers living in our land should not be subject to tension, and should not become a point of dispute, either among the Lebanese themselves or between the Lebanese and the Palestinians.

“Lebanon has never renounced its responsibilities, and this should be as clear as the sun. There should be no confusion. No window should be opened for resettlement or any other measures which may contradict the right of return or strip them of their identity, the identity of Palestine.”

The census result is also much lower than the 469,331 people registered in Lebanon with the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.

“UNRWA does not have a headcount of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. What we have are official registration records for the number of registered Palestine refugees in Lebanon,” spokeswoman Huda Samra said.

“If someone registered with UNRWA in Lebanon decided to live outside Lebanon, they don’t notify us.”

The census found the population split evenly between men and women, and nearly half are 24 or younger. About 7.2 percent are illiterate, but 93.6 percent of children aged between 3 to 13 are enrolled in schools. About 18 percent of the workforce is unemployed.

The census also found that many occupants of the refugee camps were not Palestinian. About half of those in some camps were Syrians displaced by the war, and people of other nationalities also lived there because rents were low.

Hussein Muneimneh, head of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, told Arab News the census provided “some of the most important indications that will guide the path of Lebanese-Palestinian relations in the future, and showed the possibility of transcending many taboos that have prevailed in the country for a long time.”

Ola Awad, head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, who came from Ramallah for the launch of the census results, said they were “a real chance to change the life conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon on all levels, and show the international community the real picture of their suffering and the effects of the Israeli occupation on our Palestinian people everywhere.”

Fathi Abu Al-Ardat, a Palestine Liberation Organization official in Lebanon, told Arab News: “The number may rise to 200,000, but the numbers are not important. Rather, refugees in Lebanon should live in dignity and with equal opportunities for employment.”


Arab women are on the march … straight into the heart of government

The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Updated 5 min 14 sec ago
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Arab women are on the march … straight into the heart of government

  • Recent appointments in Egypt are the latest example of the rise of women to high political office in the region
  • “The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position”

CAIRO, LONDON: The appointment of two more female ministers this month to the new Egyptian Cabinet means women now fill eight out of 34 positions, the highest number in the modern history of Egypt.

Hala Zayed is the new health minister while Yasmine Fouad takes over as environment minister. Both women replaced men and join culture minister Inas Abdel-Dayem, tourism minister Rania Al-Mashat, Nabila Makram (immigration minister) Ghada Wali (social solidarity minister), Hala El-Saeed (planning minister) and Sahar Nasr (minister of investment and international cooperation).
The appointments by Egypt’s new Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly have been welcomed as forward thinking by social and political commentators.
Dr. Magda Bagnied, a writer and professor of communication, told Arab News: “I believe whoever planned for those eight effective ministries was looking forward for the future of Egypt since they are all interconnected in some way, and having females leading them is a leap forward.
“A country’s rank and status is measured by the role of women. The higher the number of leadership roles for women, the further the country is considered to be on the road to development.”
Four out of 15 new deputy ministers are also women and women now hold 15 percent of the seats in Parliament.
The rise of women to high political office in the Arab world is by no means restricted to Egypt.
Jordan also has a record number of women ministers after Prime Minister-designate Omar Razzaz appointed seven women to the 29-member Cabinet sworn in last week.
“The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position.”
The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Twenty-three members of the new Jordanian Cabinet have been ministers before and 13 were members of the outgoing government that was brought down by popular protest.
Rawan Joyoussi, whose posters became one of the defining images of the protests, said: “I was hoping that women would be empowered and I am happy with that. But as far as the composition of the rest of the government is concerned, I think we have to play our part to create the mechanisms that will hold the government accountable.”
In the UAE, women hold nine out of 31 ministerial positions, and one of them, Minister for Youth Shamma Al-Mazrui, is also the world’s youngest minister, appointed in 2016 when she was only 22.
This makes the UAE Cabinet nearly 30 percent female, which is higher than India, almost equal to the UK and far ahead of the US, where Donald Trump has just four women in his Cabinet.
The general election in Morocco in October 2016 produced 81 women members of Parliament, accounting for 21 percent of the total 395 seats. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which won the most votes, also ended up with the highest number of women MPs, 18.
Though elections in Saudi Arabia were open to women only in 2015, it ranks 100th out of 193rd in the world league table of women in national governing bodies, slightly above the US at 102nd place.
A policy briefing from the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington says that one of the best ways for a country to ease economic pressure and boost productivity is to increase female participation in the workplace and in political life.
“Introducing diversity through gender parity will benefit economic growth and can help Arab countries to generate prosperity as well as the normative and social imperative of change,” wrote analyst Bessma Momani.
Yet in some parts of the Middle East, female representation seems to be going backward.
In 2009, four of Kuwait’s 65 MPs were women. In 2012 there were three and in 2013 only one. In 2016, 15 women stood for election to the 50 open parliamentary seats (the other 15 are appointed). Only one, Safa Al-Hashem, who was already an MP, was successful.
Qatar has no women MPs or ministers at all.
Egypt’s appointment of two more women ministers does not have the appearance of tokenism. The new Health Minister, Hala Zayed, 51, has a solid background in the field as a former president of the Academy of Health Sciences, a hospital specializing in cancer treatment for children.
She was also government adviser on health, chairwoman of a committee for combating corruption at the ministry she now heads and also has a Ph.d. in project management.
Similarly, Yasmeen Fouad, 43, the new environment minister, has four years’ experience as a former assistant minister in the same department, where she was known as “the lady for difficult missions,” and liaised with the UN. She is also an assistant professor of economics and political science at Cairo University.
Egypt’s first female minister was Hikmat Abu Zaid, appointed minister of social affairs in 1962 by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who dubbed her “the merciful heart of revolution.”
Now there are eight like her, demonstrating that in the Middle East, “girl power” is on the rise.