The reality of Palestinian engineers in Lebanon

Photo by Aseel Baidoun

The Palestinians Engineers in Lebanon make a good example of the marginalization that faces the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon because Lebanese laws prevent  Palestinian engineers from working legally and decently.

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The serious discussion about the rights of Palestinians refugees in Lebanon lately, and the summits of the Lebanese parliament, made the Palestinian engineers feel  optimistic about the possibility of allowing them to work legally and in dignity. This optimism vanished when the discussions intensified, pointing that if the Palestinians were granted such rights, the outcome will spark a civil war leading to the political division of Lebanon. The objectors to such proposal  banged their warning drums that granting Palestinian refugees in Lebanon some rights will affect the political future of Lebanon and its civil peace.

 The reduction of the four projects that were submitted by the Democratic gathering and then by the parties of 14 March, in order to change some statements in labour and social security laws to allows the Palestinians to obtain  work permissions and  compensation at retirement or end of service and work injury caused a fanfare about the perception of the qualitative changes in the life of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

The fanfare that accompanied the modifications in some statements was not true, since all the issues are still vague and need to explain with other laws and the right of work for the Palestinian engineers, doctor, and pharmacists have remained without solution. These professions are still working under special laws or regulations. The law which regulates the profession of Palestinian engineers in Lebanon has not been discussed at all. The hopes have vanished and lost in the Lebanese narrow political alleys.

In front of this reality, The Palestinian engineer has face two choices, either migrates to a Western country that respects his knowledge and efficiency, and may offer him a citizenship of this country and then return to Lebanon or to the countries of Arab Gulf, or he may stay in Lebanon, faces the injustice, unfairness and discrimination.

The Palestinian community in Lebanon is still lacking a sufficient number of doctors, engineers and pharmacists. And now these professions in the Palestinian camps become so rare. The logical question is how can any society be advanced without these professions?

There is a reluctance to study the free professions, because of the high financial costs, and there is a clear migration of these elites because the European countries or the U.S. welcomes the Palestinian brain, and how to maintain the right of return for the refugees from the Lebanese authorities then? The Prevent of settlement of the refugees via the Lebanese method leads automatically for force displacement, and dispersal of the Palestinians again many times. How can accept the insult of the Palestinian engineers through the deprivation of their right to work and not to be equated with his Lebanese brothers?!

The study that has launched recently in cooperation between the Palestinian Association for Human Rights “Witness” and the Association of Palestinians Engineers in Lebanon, is trying to discover the reality of the Palestinian engineer objectively and in a scientific way.

The study was divided into three sections:

1- Section that looks at the actual legal framework of the Palestinian engineers in Lebanon.

2- Section looking at the results of the study, 

3- Section presents important supplements relevant for the study.

For the first section, the legal department, where the study discussed in detail the legal status of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, including the legal framework of the Palestinian engineers in Lebanon with the presentation of legal options and proposals for laws to modify this framework in order to suit with the rights of engineers, according to the principles of the relevant human rights.

The second part abbreviated the reality of Palestinian engineers in Lebanon during the study that relied on a random sample of 93 interviewed Palestinian engineers, representing 31% of the total number of the Palestinian engineers in Lebanon, who are about 300 engineers. The study relied on interviews with Lebanese engineers also. The questionnaire has dealt with all factors that affecting the reality of the Palestinian engineer, starting from his village or camp, to the distribution of sexual and age of engineers as well as residential distribution. The sample included types of engineering specializations, and monthly income, and the costs of study engineering, and the university from which he has graduated as an engineer, and the social environment, and the political guidance for Palestinian students to study engineering.  Also it included questions about the type of work, and place, and whether the Palestinian got a job easily. Also it discussed the situation of the Lebanese Engineering Association and how it is difficult for the Palestinian engineers to join it. The questionnaire has dealt also with questions about the social reality of the Palestinian engineers and the nature of the employment contract. Also it included questions about the rights of Palestinian engineers in their work and whether they get it or not. The questionnaire also included questions about the actual situation of the General Union of Palestinian Engineers in Lebanon.

It’s clear from the sample that the percentage of 9.7% of Palestinian engineers has won excellent recognition in their graduation, the percentage who has won a very good estimate about 22.9%, while the percentage who received a good estimate of 54.8% while 10.6% did not get estimation. This good feature for the Palestinian university students started to decline in quantity over the years due to many factors.

 The study has also showed that the nature of the contract between the employers and Palestinian engineers are not stable. The Percentage of 29.16% working under an annual contract, and the percentage of 29.16% are working under a monthly contract, and 12.5% are employed under a permanent contract, and 2.08% are working under seasonal contracts, while the percentage who are working without a contract are about 18.48%, while those who don’t have enough information about them may reach about  8.3%.

The study showed that 47.3% of the engineers were studied at the universities in Lebanon, while the percentage of 52.7% of them has studied in Arab countries or foreign ones. This difference may be due to the golden period that the Palestinians have experienced in the past time when the “PLO” had been provided university scholarships for students to study abroad.

 The study also showed that 50.54% of the Palestinian engineers are working in their field of specialization. The percentage of 48.39%, are not working in their field, which is high and disturbing. The legal status of Palestinians in Lebanon prevents them to work in the engineering profession.

The Palestinians Engineers that the study included confirms that discrimination against them includes salaries, privileges, and the employment levels, and the official treatment, and the social security. This feeling of injustice and discrimination has its explanation by the Palestinian engineers who have confirmed that the salaries which they have taken are not commensurate with the effort and work they exert and this was confirmed by 79.17% of the engineers working in their field. And the issues that increase the stress upon the Palestinian engineers, is the higher cost of living in Lebanon.  68.75% of the Palestinian engineers in the sample said that the salaries are not enough to meet the costs of life in Lebanon.

When the Palestinian engineers who were included in the sample were asked if they feel with a job security, 75% of them answered no, while 25% said they feel with safe career. These high rates from the Palestinian engineers who miss the sense of job security make them worry and nervous, waiting for vague future that leads them to termination at any time and become outside their work, and the lack of job security is a part of the general system that makes the Palestinians in Lebanon feel with worry and fear about their future.

There are many responsibilities, according to engineers who were interviewed:

First responsibility lies heavily on the Lebanese state, which doesn’t provide a suitable legal ground for an engineer.

Second responsibility lies on UNRWA, which doesn’t help the Palestinian Student to get university scholar ships to study engineering only under limited conditions.

Third responsibility lies on the Palestinian factions because there is no standard frame of reference helps the Palestinian engineers to overcome their challenges or to argue with the successive Lebanese governments to stop prejudice towards the rights of Palestinians. 

Fourth responsibility lies on the Union of Palestinian engineers who haven’t formulated a program which gather the work of this important sector of the Palestinian refugees.

 So this is the reality of Palestinian engineers, what would the Palestinians in Lebanon do about their reality, and what are the methods that should be followed to obtain their rights? And when the Lebanese decision-maker wakes up from the obsession of fear and anxiety from the Palestinian presence in Lebanon? Is this anxiety and fear is legal, acceptable, and logical?

There is a great responsibility upon the Palestinian references in Lebanon, their weakness and division encouraged the successive Lebanese governments to deal with the Palestinians in this way. The democratic dimension of this reference is an important criterion in their effectiveness. The Palestinians in Lebanon should not be turned from a revolutionary people to people looking for crumbs of rights here and there. The references of the Palestinian Should determine the priorities. One of the first priorities is to strive hard to make the Palestinians in Lebanon live in dignity and to enable them to stand up in front of all the challenges that threaten their right to return to their homeland Palestine.

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