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Lebanese coalition to present bill on Palestinian rights

July 10, 2010 1:09 P.M. (Updated: July 11, 2010 7:25 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – A coalition of Lebanese political parties will soon resent a two-part draft law on Palestinian refugees’ rights to work and buy health insurance, the Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat reports.

The March 14 coalition’s draft bill will not tackle the issue of Palestinian ownership of property rights, as the issue is being discussed by Lebanon’s parliamentary administration and justice committee, the daily reported.

The bill calls for helping Palestinian refugees attain work permits, as many are currently barred from several professions under Lebanese law. Lebanon’s parliament was divided last month over a bill granting Palestinian refugees civil rights, put forward by MP Walid Jumblatt.

On 15 June, parliament speaker Nabih Berri adjourned an extraordinary parliament session in which Jumblatt proposed the draft law.

According to Lebanese news site Now Lebanon, Hezbollah and Amal voted in favor of the bill while deputies from the Kataeb, Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement voted against.

Jumblatt, in turn, addressed the parliament following the vote, saying, “If you want to postpone dealing with the problem, then do so. But the problem will still be [unresolved],” the news site quoted him as saying.

He also slammed the right-wing parties in the parliament and said, “I have not seen anyone dumber than [those parties].”

Shortly after, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri called for national unity on the conferring of civil rights to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

“There are humanitarian, social and ethical duties, and the Lebanese state should assume the responsibility of providing them to the Palestinian brothers,” Hariri was quoted as saying in the Lebanese Daily Star. “Lebanon will not dodge these duties, which must be crystal-clear, and not be subject to any misinterpretation.”

The premier said he was committed to obtaining a cross-party agreement in exchange for security cooperation from various Palestinian factions, responsible for upholding law and order in the country’s 12 refugee camps.

Following the bill’s proposal, PLO representative to Lebanon Abdallah Abdallah said there was no intent for Palestinians to ask for political rights or access to state social services. “What the Palestinians want is the right to work like any other foreign nationals,” he said at the time.

Approximately 425,000 refugees are registered with UNRWA in Lebanon, with many living in the country’s 12 refugee camps. According to UNRWA, the UN body set up to assist Palestinian refugees, officially registered Palestine refugees born in Lebanon were allowed by law to work in the clerical and administrative sectors for the first time in 2005.

However, refugees remain unable to work in some professions, for example, as doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, or accountants.

In February, Fatah's Secretary-General in Lebanon, Sultan Abul Enayn, publicly confirmed his resignation from his post over a failure of the Palestinian leadership to heed his warnings of increasingly grim circumstances faced by Palestinian refugees.
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