Although the Lebanese government is currently struggling with its own internal upheavals, the labor department has moved forward with plans to make work permits more accessible for Palestinian refugees. The caretaker Labor Minister signed a decree last week to carry out the labor law amendments for Palestinian refugee work permits. The process began six months ago when the government passed legislation on the issue. Now the government is awaiting final approval from the Shura Council, the highest court in Lebanon.
There are currently an estimated 260,000 to 400,000 Palestinian refugees living within Lebanon’s borders. A recent study found that only 37% of working age Palestinians within the country are actually employed. The study also found that Palestinian refugees are in relative poverty spending only $170 a month. The relationship between the Lebanese government and the thousands of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon has been tenuous at best. There has been widespread institutionalized and non-institutionalized discrimination against Palestinian refugees as many Lebanese citizens feel anxiety over their government’s already precarious balance of power.
This is a strong move toward resolving past mistrust and anxieties regarding the status of refugees in Lebanon. Integrating more individuals into the workforce could also increase growth and strengthen the country’s economy. However, considering the fragile state of Lebanon’s governance structure it could also lead to continued instability between the competing factions within Lebanon. The government will have to continue its delicate balancing act. In any case, this is a positive step toward integration, and could open the door for furthering other rights denied to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.