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  The Refugees

 
UN Bodies UNHCR and UNRWA

Refugees in Lebanon :
the UNHCR and the UNRWA


The UNHCR (United nations High Commissioner for Refugees)

General Observations. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1950, one of several attempts by the international community during the 20th century to provide protection and assistance to refugees. The League of Nations, the forerunner of the U.N. had named Norwegian scientist and explorer Fridtjof Nansen to the post of High Commissioner as early as 1921. World War II provided the impetus for several new organizations, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency, the International Refugee Organization and subsequently UNHCR.

Mandate of the UNHCR. The new agency was given a limited three-year mandate to help resettle 1.2 million European refugees left homeless by the global conflict. But as refugee crises mushroomed around the globe, its mandate was extended every five years. Today, UNHCR is one of the world's principal humanitarian agencies, its staff of more than 5,000 personnel helping 22.3 million people in more than 120 countries. During its half century of work, the agency provided assistance to at least 50 million people, earning two Nobel Peace Prizes in 1954 and 1981.

The UNHCR in Lebanon. Lebanon has hosted UNHCR since 1964 and is a Member State of the UNHCR Executive Committee. However, Lebanon has not yet acceded to any international refugee convention (the 1951 Convention on the Status of refugees and/or its 1967 Protocol) and domestic laws on non-Palestinian refugee protection have not been implemented. In those circumstances, UNHCR tries to ensure the protection of refugees under its own statute. In conjunction with local NGOs, particularly the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), UNHCR also promotes asylum through refugee law seminars and workshops for Lebanese and other officials. Lebanon then permits refugees, recognized by UNHCR, to stay in Lebanon, but only on a temporary basis without any prospects of integration. Given refugees are denied by the Lebanese authorities to access gainful employment, UNHCR meets their most basic and immediate needs. However, decreasing contributions from donor countries have had a severe impact on UNHCR'S assistance programmes worldwide, including Lebanon. At the end of 2000, 2672 refugees were recognized to be refugees by UNHCR.

UNHCR's mandate in Lebanon does not cover Palestinian refugees. In addition to refugees covered by the UNHCR, 376 472 Palestine refugees enjoy asylum in Lebanon, where they are assisted by a sister United Nations organization, UNRWA.