Haitham al-Ghuzai, a Palestinian refugee living in the Ain al-Hilweh camp, wants “to emigrate to any country,” because he wants to live in dignity. He wants to work and raise his children and put them through school.
Ghuzai, along with a number of other young people, is protesting to be allowed to emigrate. “These demonstrations are aimed at calling for emigration, and they are individual protests. I erected a tent on the street after I came out of prison, where I was unjustly detained for five years,” Ghuzai said.
“I was promised that the case I was imprisoned for — selling guns — would end within six months after I was handed over to the Lebanese state, and I left my family without being able to take care of them.”
“After I erected a tent I found that there was also a youth movement calling for emigration, and I was among the youth committee in the Ain al-Hilweh camp, but I do not like silence. I screamed to express the pain of the Palestinian people. My outcry was due to the lack of attention to the situation of patients, the conditions of families of prisoners, unemployment, security, infrastructure, education — and these demands are just. Whenever we visited an official or a leader, they would tell me, your demands are just, but we cannot do anything due to the political situation,” Ghuzai cried.
This is what the idea of the migration project is: “Either we live with dignity and they leave us alone or we leave. We do not have the right to travel to any Arab country, and we do not hold any passport. All we have is a travel document that no one recognizes. The idea of claiming the right to emigrate is not aimed at giving up the right to return, but at living a decent life and staking a future for the Palestinian people,” Ghuzai added.
The young Palestinian doctors and engineers who graduate “do not have the right to work [in these professions] and do not live with dignity here. Moreover, 90% of our people want salvation, and we do not demand collective emigration. All we are asking for is [the possibility of] migrating to work and a decent life, and we want embassies to open their doors to receive us.”
Another Palestinian man in the camp said, “Emigration is an escape from the tragic reality that the Palestinian people are experiencing in refugee camps in Lebanon. The idea of emigration came up after the events of Nahr al-Bared.”
He said, “We will not abandon the right of return, but nothing here pushes us to remain. ...”
Abdul Rahman Al-Haj Hassan, an 18-year-old student, said, “I wanted to study medicine, but the Palestinian situation in Lebanon does not allow [Palestinians] to practice medicine, so I changed my mind, and I decided to become a school teacher, as I might have a chance — albeit a small one — to work in UNRWA.” Hassan also supports emigration as a result of the deteriorating situation in the camp.
Mohammed Sabah, a 19-year-old student, is against emigration to any European country “because the struggle of the Palestinian people since 1948, the death of thousands for the sake of Palestine and the right of return cannot be wiped out.”
According to 18-year-old student Haseeb Yusef, the problem is that when educated people graduate from college after majoring in business management, engineering or medicine, they end up working as vegetable vendors, and this is a catastrophe. This is why Yusef started hating studying “as there is no future here, and I want to emigrate to a state where I can feel that I am a human being.”
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