Why should you know your rights?
Though some laws are in place intended to guarantee and protect one’s human rights, implementing them is a different story. Arbitrary and institutionalized practices that violate both local and international law still take place in Lebanon, and more often than not, it’s vulnerable communities – refugees included – who experience this.
Refugees=Partners explainers and videos shed light on your rights as refugees within Lebanon’s borders, both in regards to its local law and its commitments under international law.
So, why should you know your rights? Simple. It’s your right to know.
Disclaimer: The information below is not intended as official legal advice, nor does it qualify as an alternative to support from a legal representative.
Lebanon is obliged under international law to welcome and protect refugees and asylum seekers
Lebanon has ratified or is signatory to many United Nations treaties related to some of the most pressing human rights issues. When it comes to refugees, the most crucial treaty and the one referred to the most is the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. States party to the convention must guarantee rights for refugees, including their freedom to work, movement, and protection.
Arguably its most important article, Article 33, prohibits non-refoulement – or forceful returns to the country they fled from:
No Contracting State shall expel or return (” refouler “) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. – Article 33(1)
That being said, Lebanon has not signed or ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention. Lawmakers and high government officials will often refer to this fact in response to criticism of refugee policy. But despite that, all states are expected to abide by the non-refoulement principle under customary international law.
Also, many of the treaties it has committed to under international law also apply to its refugee and asylum-seeking populations including:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Convention on the Rights of the Child
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
… and more.
Lebanon's obligations under international law to welcome and protect refugees
Lebanese law of entry and residency for Syrians
Initially, entry and residency for Lebanese and Syrians between the two countries was based on an agreement between the two countries in 1993.
Three years after the end of the Lebanese Civil War and the dispersal of Syrian military across the country. Both countries’ ministers of economy signed the Agreement for Economic and Social Cooperation and Coordination between the Lebanese Republic and the Syrian Arabic Republic. The agreement guarantees freedom of movement for both Lebanese and Syrian nationals between the two countries, as well as the right to residency and work.
Under this policy, Syrians entering Lebanon with a valid ID or passport were given an “entry stamp”, permitting visa-free legal residency for an initial period of six months. It can also be renewed for an additional six months, also free of charge.
This open door policy ended in January 2015, where General Security implemented a series of entry regulations.
These regulations divide Syrians looking to renew residency permits in Lebanon into two categories: refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and those who aren’t. All will have to pay a $200 (LL 302,140) annual fee for renewal, as well as valid documentation of their identity and place of residence. Those not registered with the UNHCR would now have to find a Lebanese sponsor in order to legally stay.
In May 2015, UNHCR also indefinitely suspended registering Syrian refugees following orders from the Lebanese government
These regulations were modified in February 2017, where General Security announced that the $200 residence fee would be waived. However, the situation is not entirely this simple, with many exceptions applying to most Syrian refugees in Lebanon:
This does not apply to Syrian refugees not registered with the UNHCR
This does not apply to Palestinian refugees who fled from Syria to Lebanon
This does not apply to fees required to pay Lebanese sponsors, and in some cases, municipalities fees of their own