DAMASCUS (AFP) – The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Wednesday called on the newly-formed Lebanese unity government to improve conditions for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in the country.
“Hamas wishes prosperity and development for Lebanon and asks the new government to pay particular attention to the situation of Palestinian refugees,” the Damascus-based political bureau of Hamas said in a statement.
The statement, addressed to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Sleiman, urged the Lebanese government “to issue laws in favour of the civil and social rights” of Palestinian refugees.
Hariri announced a new government line-up on Monday, capping nearly five months of political wrangling with his rivals in the Syria- and Iran-backed Hezbollah-led alliance.
According to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, there are between 350,000 and 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon — a country of just over four million inhabitants — most of them living in 12 camps.
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have no legal status and unlike Lebanese citizens, they do not enjoy free medical care or social security benefits even if employed.
They are also barred from several professions and are not allowed to purchase real estate or form associations.
Many in Lebanon fear that by granting the Palestinians more basic rights, this would lead to their permanent settlement in the country and alter the demographic map.
Hamas in its statement however described Palestinian refugees in Lebanon as “guests” and said they “remain attached to the right of return (to Palestine).”
“The Palestinian people… affirm their determination to preserve the security and stability of Lebanon,” the statement added.