- Title: LEBANON: Unemployed Palestinian youths in refugee camps dispair of finding work
- Date: 13th May 2010
- Summary: YOUTHS STANDING IN STREET
- Embargoed: 28th May 2010 13:00
- Location: Lebanon
- Country: Lebanon
- Topics: Employment,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA4055EQWDRRFT17KTO9BR1SNSO
- Story Text: Unemployed and disaffected Palestinian youths living in Lebanese refugee camps are joining militant groups because their work prospects are so poor, camp residents say.
There are few incentives for self-improvement since Lebanon bars Palestinians from working in dozens of professional fields like medicine, law and engineering.
There is a growing sense of despair among young Palestinians in their teens and early twenties living in overcrowded camps.
Militant Palestinian groups are becoming more and more popular because they offer their new recruits money and a cause.
''There is no work, we cannot own things, we are sitting here without work and we have no rights. We have no choice but to join the groups," Khaled, one young resident of Sabra and Chatila camp, told Reuters Television.
In Lebanon, there are around 400,000 Palestinian refugees, half of them living in 12 camps scattered across the country.
The camps are overcrowded, and often lack basic services like running water and electricity.
And under Lebanese law, Palestinians cannot buy real estate or own a business.
Ahmad, a mechanic, says that Palestinian youths living in Lebanese camps have joined militant groups because they lack the basic rights that refugees in other countries like Egypt, Jordan and Syria have.
''Most of the youths here have joined the groups, why? Because of the lack of jobs. The Palestinian people are deprived from working in 77 professions. The Syrian can drive a six-wheel truck, but I have no right to do that. The Bangladeshi can work in households, but I can't. Sri-Lankans can clean houses but I have no right to do that. I am a Palestinian. What is a Palestinian? Let them give us our rights like they do in other countries, Syria, Egypt and Jordan. Our civil rights, we want nothing but our civil rights from the Lebanese state,'' Ahmad said.
Some Palestinians can find jobs under an UN Refugees Agency (UNRWA) scheme but funding is being reduced due to the global recession.
The lucky minority have the opportunity to train and work as barbers, mechanics or stall holders.
Amin Refaat owns a vegetable stall in the camp selling cucumbers and tomatoes.
He is a university graduate in engineering, but Lebanese law means he can't work using his qualifications.
Refaat is teaching his son to be a barber in the camp so that he can stop hanging around idly on street corners with other unemployed youths.
Based on his own experience, Refaat does not advise his son to continue his education.
When asked whether unemployment creates despair among local youths Refaat replied: "Of course. Look at our generation, they are all out on the streets. What can they do? Look at any young man, he is on the street, doing nothing. My son is one of them. And I can't do anything for him. There is nothing in my power to do for him. I can't find him a job, I can't do anything for him. He has to live the way I lived. I am now teaching him barbering. A craft that he can use later to get by with. There is nothing more I can do.'' Seventeen-year-old Ahmad Mashalfeh says he is not interested in completing his education because he has found work fixing television sets in a small electrical appliances shop.
''I won't benefit from anything if I study in this country because I am a Palestinian. I feel like a stranger, like I have no home. It is as if I am just air, I am nothing. Having no work is very upsetting,'' he said.
The thousands of Palestinians in Lebanon whose ambitions are being thwarted by poor job prospects have little hope of a change in their circumstances.
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