General Security has confirmed that all passports for Lebanon-based Palestinian refugees would be machine readable by 2017.
Palestinian refugees numbering some 400,000 presently carry handwritten passports issued by General Security. The recent decision by the International Civil Aviation Organization to not accept handwritten passports sparked fears among Palestinians that they would be denied entry to other countries.
General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim previously discussed the matter with Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Dabbour. Ibrahim promised to renew Palestinian passports in biometric form just like Lebanese ones.
The decision by the ICAO went into effect last month. Yet, a statement by General Security said that the decision has not affected the ability of Palestinian nationals to travel. They based their conclusions on the lack of disparity in the flow of Palestinian travelers crossing Lebanese borders.
The deadline for the accepted use of handwritten passports was announced in Standard 3.10.1, issued by ICAO, which also included a decision to halt the production of non-biometric passports in April 2010. The decision by the ICAO remains controversial, however. “The decision taken on Nov. 24, 2015, applies to passports in general,” a General Security statement to The Daily Star read. “Forcing its application on refugee passports, including Palestinian ones, remains a source of controversy between ICAO and member states.”
The General Security confirmed that Lebanon would maintain its membership with the ICAO. Yet, the government has also informed the ICAO that it may not comply with the decision to make passports of Palestinian refugees machine-readable until 2017.
The Palestinian refugee passport is usually granted for a period of three years or less. Last month, General Security issued a statement announcing that it would not partake in the ICAO decision, even though the Lebanese government is a member of the organization.
The statement included a previously issued document stating that the Lebanese government would continue to recognize the current Lebanese passport, the handwritten Palestinian refugee passport, and temporary permits for enrolled and prospective students.
Palestinians were forced to flee to Lebanon in 1948 in the wake of the creation of the state of Israel. Palestinians are barred from all but menial occupations. With fading hopes of their living conditions improving anytime soon, some have tried to leave the country illegally.