Page last updated at 19:05 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Boos as Lebanon camp is rebuilt

By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Nahr al-Bared, Lebanon

Destroyed buildings and rubble in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared
Some Palestinians worry they will never see their homes rebuilt

The United Nations has laid a foundation stone at the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon to mark the formal start of reconstruction there.

The Palestinian refugee camp was destroyed in heavy fighting between Islamist militants and the Lebanese army in 2007.

Some 400 people died and 30,000 Palestinians were displaced.

But there is not enough money to rebuild completely, and some of its residents booed as work began.

As the first stone in the reconstruction of Nahr al-Bared was laid, some Western diplomats admitted the occasion was not as positive as the organisers had hoped.

The UN's relief agency for Palestinian refugees (Unwra) has only managed to raise $43m (£31m) to rebuild the camp - a tiny fraction of the $430m needed.

We have no right here... we need life
Palestinian refugee

Lebanon's rich neighbours in the Gulf have not delivered the funds they pledged.

Only 50m (165 feet) away from the VIP guests, several hundred Palestinian refugees booed from behind barbed wire.

Displaced by last year's fighting between the army and the Islamic militants, these refugees now live in the areas around the camp, surrounded by the rubble of their homes.

They say they worry about whether the international community will ever find the money to rebuild their homes.

Time bomb

But even if they do, Mahmoud, like many here, says it will not solve their problems in Lebanon.

"This is not life, this is not life. We need to change this country. We have no rights here, we have no rights. We need life. Where is the life? Here, no life."

There are more than 200,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, living in 12 camps across the country.

Palestinians have been here for more than 60 years - since the creation of Israel - but they are still barred from at least 70 professions, have no access to state education or healthcare, and cannot move freely or buy land.

These conditions turn the Palestinian camps into a breeding ground for extremism, a time bomb which will inevitably explode according to a recent report by the think tank, the International Crisis Group.

The ruins of Nahr al-Bared stretch along the Mediterranean coast and are a reminder of how violent the dissent bred inside these camps can be.

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