Crackdown on thousands of Syrian refugees with illegal jobs in Lebanon

1 / 2
Syrian children wait to carry customers' goods using wheelbarrows, in front of the Tazweed Center at the Al-Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, December 7, 2014. (Reuters)
2 / 2
Syrian refugees work near tents at a makeshift camp at the Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon January 9, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 July 2019
0

Crackdown on thousands of Syrian refugees with illegal jobs in Lebanon

  • On the fines for each violation, he said: “Employers must pay a fine of 1.5 million Lebanese pounds (about $1,600) for every violation

BEIRUT: Inspectors from the Lebanese Ministry of Labor carried out raids on shops, factories and establishments employing illegal foreign labor, especially Syrian workers across the country on Wednesday. The ministry has given employers a month to regularize the situation of their foreign workers.
Lebanon hosts 938,531 Syrian refugees registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and they are not allowed to work. The country also hosts about half-a-million Syrian workers allowed to work in agriculture, construction and as janitors in buildings and establishments after getting sponsorship from the employer.
The Ministry of Labor’s campaign targeted Beirut, Beirut’s southern suburbs, Jounieh, Bekaa, the south and the north. Violators were asked to regularize their situation. A number of grocery stores, small restaurants and auto repair shops run by Syrians were closed, and barbers, beauty salons, water distribution companies, butcheries, sewing shops and bakeries employing Syrians were given time to regulate their workers’ situation.
Labor Minister Kamil Abu Suleiman said: “Those who are betting on time for the plan to back down are mistaken, and those who think we lack patience and will grow tired are also mistaken.”
“We are applying the law in a courteous, calm and dignified but strict manner,” he added.
Abu Suleiman rejected the argument that there is “the scarcity or lack of Lebanese workers in some sectors.” He said: “It is unacceptable to say that there are no Lebanese workers. They must prove this to us. These are merely words that people are passing on. We are not against registering foreign workers, but we are against this logic. If they prove to us that there are no Lebanese workers, only then we shall contact the competent unions to verify the truth of this argument and give the foreign workers work permits—but this excuse is totally unacceptable.”
On the fines for each violation, he said: “Employers must pay a fine of 1.5 million Lebanese pounds (about $1,600) for every violation. If a shop is not licensed, it will be closed until the owner regulates his situation. A violation can be resolved within a period of two weeks, and the owner/employer will be required to pay 10 percent of the fine, which equals 250,000 Lebanese pounds.”
The Ministry of Labor’s plan to combat illegal foreign labor highlighted that “the number of Syrian refugees is almost a third of the Lebanese population, and hundreds of thousands of them are competing with the Lebanese citizens in various sectors. Their work is no longer limited to agriculture and construction, but they have moved their markets, establishments and brand names to Lebanon and opened thousands of illegal shops. There are also seasonal and temporary workers, and this situation cannot be borne by any country in the world.”
Abu Suleiman pointed out that there has been a rumor that Syrian workers do not need work permits, and that obtaining from the Lebanese General Security a temporary residence permit that is constantly renewed would exempt them from the need for a work permit.”
The Ministry of Labor figures showed that in the middle of this year, the number of Syrians with valid work permits was only 1,733.
The minister said: “Employers are not registering Syrian workers despite the fact that there are facilitations and exemptions, therefore a plan had to be developed to combat everything that is illegal.”
UNHCR spokesperson Lisa Abou Khaled told Arab News: “While three quarters of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live below the poverty line and 51 percent live under the extreme poverty line (on less than $3 per day), less than half of the population receive food support ($27 per person per month) and only 19 percent receive other cash support ($175 for a whole family per month). As a result, 90 percent of Syrian refugees have $1,000 in debt because they cannot cover their most essential needs.”
She added: “UN agencies, including UNHCR, are in discussion with the Ministry of Labor on the issue of employment of Syrian refugees. It is important for us that refugees are aware of discussions and decisions that may impact them.

FASTFACT

• Lebanon hosts 938,531 Syrian refugees registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and these are not allowed to work.

• The country also hosts about half-a-million Syrian workers allowed to work in certain sectors.

• Lebanon also has 200,000 Palestinian refugees who have been living in camps for six decades and are allowed to work in 73 occupations after obtaining a work permit.

“As you know, Syrians are allowed to work in three sectors (agriculture, construction, environment/cleaning services). This has been the case historically, even before the start of the Syria crisis.
“The nature of the work in these three sectors is often on a daily labor basis, and has been historically less regulated than other sectors. If documents are required in the informal casual labor field, it is important that refugees have the possibility to comply with these requirements, including those who may not have all their ID documents. It is common for a person in a refugee situation to lack certain identity documents that they may have left behind when they fled.”
A number of human rights organizations working in the field of relief for Syrian refugees in Lebanon have spoken up against the restrictions on Syrian refugees. They also called on the Lebanese authorities to “guarantee the right of defense against the forcible deportation of Syrians from Lebanon.”
These organizations include the Legal Agenda, Ruwad Al-Houkouk, Alef, the Lebanese Center for Human Rights, Umam Documentation and Research, Lebanon Support, the Social Media Exchange (SMEX) and the Lebanese Observatory of Workers and Employees’ Rights.
These organizations believe that the decisions of the Supreme Council of Defense and the director-general of General Security to deport all the Syrians who sneaked into Lebanon after April 24, 2019, are a violation of the constitution, Lebanese laws and international obligations. They argued that these decisions authorize the implementation of deportation decisions by non-competent authorities and under summary offenses without ensuring that the Syrians’ lives and freedoms are not at risk in Syria and without granting Syrians the right to defense through judicial recourse.
According to the human rights organizations, these decisions jeopardize the lives of Syrians who are at risk if they are forcibly returned to Syria, with consideration for the sovereignty of the Lebanese State and its right to protect its borders.


Battle for change far from over for women in new Sudan

Updated 2 min ago
0

Battle for change far from over for women in new Sudan

  • Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11
  • A female lawyer was detained on the evening of Jan. 12 and escorted to “the fridge,” a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold

KHARTOUM: She may have spent 40 days in jail for demonstrating against president Omar Al-Bashir who has since been toppled but activist Amani Osmane says the battle for women’s rights in Sudan is far from over.
Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11 after three decades of iron-fisted rule.
Osmane, who is also a lawyer, was detained on the evening of January 12 and escorted to “the fridge,” a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold.
“There are no windows, nothing, just air conditioning at full blast and the lights on 24/7,” she told AFP.
The fridge is part of a detention center run by the all-powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in a building on the Blue Nile that runs through Khartoum.
Dozens of activists and political opponents of Bashir’s regime have passed through what NISS agents cynically refer to as “the hotel.”
Osmane, who spent 40 days behind bars after a frigid seven hours of questioning, said she was arrested “contrary to all laws... because I stand up for women in a country where they have no rights.”
Another activist, Salwa Mohamed, 21, took part each day in protests at a camp outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum that became the epicenter of the anti-Bashir revolt.
Her aim was “to have the voice of women heard” in a Muslim country where she “cannot go out alone, study abroad or dress the way I want.”
Student Alaa Salah emerged as a singing symbol of the protest movement after a picture of her in a white robe leading chanting crowds from atop a car went viral on social media.
Portraits of Salah — dubbed “Kandaka,” or Nubian queen, online — have sprouted on murals across Khartoum, paying tribute to the prominent role played by women in the revolt.
Unrest which has gripped Sudan since bread riots in December that led to the anti-Bashir uprising left scores dead.
Doctors linked to the protest movement say that 246 people have been killed since the nationwide uprising erupted, including 127 people on June 3 when armed men raided the protest camp in Khartoum.
On Wednesday, protesters and the generals who took over from Bashir finally inked a deal that aims to install a civilian administration, a key demand of demonstrators since his fall three months ago.
The accord stipulates that a new transitional ruling body be established, comprised of six civilians and five military representatives.
A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of a transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement.
“We will no longer wait for our rights, we will fight to obtain them,” said Osmane, stressing that women wanted 40 percent of seats in parliament.
Amira Altijani, a professor of English at the all-female Ahfad University in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, said: “This movement is an opportunity for women to have their voice heard.”
For Osmane, Bashir “hijacked” sharia laws for three decades to oppress women.
“But a new Sudan is rising, with a civilian government that will allow equality,” she said.