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There isn’t any comprehensive census or any inclusive official estimation, agreed upon among the concerned parties, of the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Such a number would usually be available in two sources:


1- Administrative data (registers and records): With reference to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, these registers are available at:

·         The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA);

·          The Directorate of Political Affairs and Refugees (DPAR) at the Lebanese Ministry of Interior and Municipalities.


2- Census data and statistical surveys, built on the estimations obtained by field surveys based on sampling. The latter is partly available from the following sources:

·         Data from the Central Administration of Statistics (CAS) and the Ministry of Social Affairs that firstly comprise Palestinians residing in the neighborhoods located outside camps, knowing that such surveys do not generally cover the camps (administratively determined by this capacity);

·         National and international research agencies that conducted field surveys based on sampling, resulting in estimations of the number of refugees.


According to the report submitted by the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers Mr. Nazem Akkari at that time, the number of refugees that have set foot in Lebanon until November 1948 was estimated to be 117,122 Palestinians.


However, at the end of 2015, the total number of refugees registered with the Directorate amounted to 592,711 refugees, while UNRWA estimated the number to be 449,957 refugees, therefore indicating a huge discrepancy amounting to a number of 142,754 refugees. Part of this discrepancy may be attributed to the inconsistent definitions of refugees, and the inclusion of additional categories in the registers of the directorate, which will be presented here below. The rest of the discrepancy is due to the use of these numbers for non-scientific purposes, and to gaps in the registration systems at both sides.


Causes of the Discrepancy in the Estimation of the Number of Palestinian Refugees


A discrepancy in the estimations featured in the administrative records and the statistical surveys is a common and objective matter. However, it is not usually as large as the one we are facing in determining the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. This is due to a number of reasons, most importantly:

  • The lack of an accurate census of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, particularly the lack of an estimation of the number of refugees
  • The quick demographic changes, especially with the relocation inside camps, or from camps to adjacent areas and gatherings, as well as the waves of immigration;
  • The difference in the adopted definition of the Palestinian refugee as well as the difference in the registration and data update procedures adopted by the UNRWA and the ones adopted by the DPAR at the Lebanese Ministry of Interior and Municipalities;
  • The difference in research methodologies with respect to the field investigations based on sampling, carried out by the different entities;
  • The transformation of the Palestinian refugee issue, including the number of refugees, into a component of the political stances of the different parties.
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