Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp, 23 January 2009
Your Excellency Prime Minister Fouad el Siniora,
Your Excellencies, the Ministers,
We, the residents of the devastated Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, strongly object to the Council of Ministers’ present decision of 16 January 2009 to set up a navy base at the camp’s coast and its past decision to set up an army base in the proximity of the camp.
Are you aware that the land approved for the army base is adjacent to the UNRWA elementary and intermediate schools compound? Are you aware that this same land is the only breathing space for youngsters of the camp and its adjacent area? Are you aware that this same land lies within the residential neighborhoods of the camp?
Are you aware that one proposed plot for the navy base hosted two wedding halls that are now destroyed after the fights between the army and Fateh el-Islam, which were important to the camp and to the neighboring villages of Mhammara, Bhanneen, and Abdeh? Are you aware that these two wedding halls promoted interaction and coexistence between the Palestinians in the
camp and their Lebanese neighbors?
Can you explain to us, the residents of the devastated Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, why we are being rewarded with military bases, after losing our houses and properties in a fight that we had nothing to do with?
Is it within the objectives of the camp’s reconstruction project to replace places that ensure a dignified life of social interaction and entertainment with navy and army bases?
Can you explain to us, the residents of the devastated Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, why do we have to find out that what remains of our houses and properties have been robbed or burnt, after our return to the camp, which has been restricted only to specific areas upon authorization obtained from the Lebanese Army?
In spite of all the public talk regarding the prevalence of the rule of law, we have not seen anyone held accountable for or prosecuted for robbing or burning our belongings while the camp was under the army’s control. So, military and police bases have not and will not guarantee security in the absence of any authority enforcing the law, respecting rights, and practicing
We have shared our part of the responsibility, in this fight that we have nothing to do with, when we evacuated our houses to support the army’s mission against Fateh el-Islam. In spite of everything, why is our camp under the blockade of concrete walls and barbed wire? Why are we not allowed to enter or exit our camp except with permits from the intelligence and through
military checkpoints? Why is the media not allowed to enter the camp?
Mr. Prime Minister and Ministers, are you aware that we have lost most of our trade activities because of this siege? Are you aware that most of our networks with our neighbors –a paragon of interaction and coexistence- have been shattered? Our Lebanese neighbors, buyers and sellers, will not risk losing time and facing humiliation at army checkpoints or intelligence stations. The financial assistance that residents are getting from donors is minimal and ineffective given that almost all the economic activities in the camp are paralyzed by complicated security procedures.
Mr. Prime Minister and Ministers, are you aware that 17 months after the fighting stopped there is still no strategy for rebuilding the new camp’s 300 buildings because of the unjust and unfair laws prohibiting Palestinians from owning property in Lebanon? Are you aware that residents in the proximity of the old camp are not yet allowed to return to their residences?
We, the residents of the devastated Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, also strongly object to your decision to ask – from the Vienna donor’s conference, in the framework of reconstruction and governance- for five million dollars for the community policing project without the knowledge and approval of the camp residents.
Mr. Prime Minister and Ministers, you who objected to the military siege and war on Gaza and supported its residents against all military action, why do you not consider supporting Palestinian refugees on Lebanese territory? Why do you not provide Palestinian refugees with prospects for a dignified life free of military restrictions and under the rule of just and fair laws to work, own property, and even pass on inheritance from parent to child?
We believed in a partnership between us and the Lebanese State, and we refused to accept conspiracy theories about the goals behind the camp’s destruction. However, we are left with no alternative but to believe in an inhuman and humiliating reality we live every day.
Now that we have conveyed our situation and expressed our point of view about the unbearable and inescapable tragic conditions, we consider that you have been informed. Mr. Prime Minister and Ministers, we expect you to reconsider the miserable situation of the Nahr el-Bared camp and to make new decisions to remove all military presence?, to remove all barbed wires and
checkpoints, and to eliminate the need for permits. We expect you to help the camp, its residents, and its neighbors to recover.
We, the residents of the devastated Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, ask you, Mr. Prime Minister and Ministers, to reconsider your decision to set up a navy base at the camp’s coast and an army base in the proximity of the camp, taking into consideration all the tragic conditions that Palestinians suffer. We ask you to choose other locations for the navy and army bases, locations far from schools and residential neighborhoods.
Residents of Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp