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Lebanon: electricity charges aggravate refugee crisis 

The vast majority of Lebanese struggle to survive in dire economic conditions in Beirut, Lebanon on September 7, 2022 [Adri Salido/Anadolu Agency]
The vast majority of Lebanese struggle to survive in dire economic conditions in Beirut, Lebanon on September 7, 2022 [Adri Salido/Anadolu Agency]

The decision by the Lebanese authorities to collect payment for electricity supplied to Palestinian refugees in the country will aggravate the crises in all of the camps where they live, Quds Press reported on Monday. The authorities have informed the Palestinian factions of the decision which, confirmed Minister of Energy and Water Walid Fayyad on Monday, will also affect Syrian refugees.

Along with the cuts in services provided by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), say observers, the electricity charges will make it even harder for refugees. They already live in abject poverty in the absence of the basic necessities for a decent life. Although most refugee families have been in Lebanon for decades, they have never been given Lebanese citizenship and as refugees have many restrictions placed upon them by the government in Beirut.

"Nevertheless," said Mon'em Awad, an official from the Popular Committees in Palestinian Refugee Camps and Gatherings in Lebanon, "despite the difficulties, Palestinian refugees have reacted positively to the Lebanese decision." The refugees have said that they are ready to cooperate with the government and pledged to accept any "appropriate mechanism" for collecting the electricity charges.

According to the Director-General of Commission 302 for the Defence of Palestinian Refugee Rights, Ali Huwaidi, "The electricity charges are the responsibility of UNRWA, which provides basic services in the refugee camps." He pointed out that UNRWA is responsible for the infrastructure in the camps, of which electricity supply is part, along with sewage, water and communications. "Refugees respect the sovereignty of the state, and pay taxes, but get nothing in return."

Human rights activist and researcher Hassan Al-Sayyeda explained that many of the Palestinian refugees are unable to afford food for their families or pay their rent and other basics. "They suffer as refugees in a country which is itself going through very serious economic and social difficulties, and now the burden of having to pay for electricity is being placed on them."

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