Lebanon ‘spiralling out of control,’ says UN rights chief

Tens of thousands of Lebanese people have lost their jobs or part of their salaries, while a crippling dollar shortage has sparked spiralling inflation. (AFP/File Photo)
Short Url
Updated 10 July 2020

Lebanon ‘spiralling out of control,’ says UN rights chief

  • Michelle Bachelet said the social fabric of the country was at risk as vulnerable populations are threatened with extreme poverty

BEIRUT: Lebanon's economic crisis is getting out of hand, the UN rights chief warned Friday, calling for urgent internal reforms coupled with international support to prevent further mayhem.

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the social fabric of the country was at risk as vulnerable populations are threatened with extreme poverty.

“This situation is fast spiralling out of control, with many already destitute and facing starvation as a direct result of this crisis,” she said in a statement.

“The alarm has been sounded, and we must respond immediately before it is too late.”

For months, the Mediterranean country has grappled with its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Tens of thousands have lost their jobs or part of their salaries, while a crippling dollar shortage has sparked spiralling inflation.

Bachelet said an unemployment crisis would propel poverty and indebtedness with "grave implications" in a country with fragile social nets.

She said vulnerable Lebanese, along with 1.7 million refugees, were increasingly unable to meet their basic needs, as were 250,000 migrant workers, many of whom have lost their jobs or been left homeless.

“Their situation will only get worse as food and medical imports dry up," the former Chilean president said.

“As we respond to this pandemic and the socio-economic crisis, we must include and protect everyone, regardless of their migration or other status.”

Economic woes last year sparked mass protests in Lebanon against a political class deemed irretrievably corrupt.

The Lebanese pound, officially pegged at 1,507 pounds to the dollar, reached more than 9,000 to the dollar last week on the black market in a dizzying devaluation.

Prices have soared almost as fast as the exchange rate has plummeted, meaning that a salary of one million pounds is now worth a little more than $100, compared with almost $700 last year.

After the country for the first time defaulted on its sovereign debt in March, the government pledged reforms and in May started talks with the International Monetary Fund towards unlocking billions of dollars in aid.

But after 16 meetings, negotiations between Beirut and the IMF are deadlocked, while leaders are reluctant to enact reforms.

Bachelet urged Lebanon's political leaders to implement the necessary structural changes, and prioritise the provision of food, electricity, health and education.

The rights chief also called on the international community to ramp up its help.

“Without strengthened social safety nets and bolstered basic assistance to ease the pain caused by required structural reform, vulnerable Lebanese, migrant workers and refugees will be pushed further into poverty and extreme poverty,” she said


Libya’s GNA govt detains 35 Egyptian fishermen

Updated 12 August 2020

Libya’s GNA govt detains 35 Egyptian fishermen

  • The GNA is still holding the fishermen without a clear accusation to justify their detention

CAIRO: The fate of at least 35 Egyptian fishermen hangs in the balance after they were arrested by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) on Nov. 2 last year.  

The families of the fishermen have appealed to the Egyptian government to step up their efforts to secure their freedom as Cairo has been working on their release since November.

Little is known about the fate of the fishermen in Libya other than their location, after it was leaked to Egyptian authorities that they were held in the Turmina Prison, which is affiliated with the GNA.

The head of the Fishermen’s Syndicate in Kafr El-Sheikh, Ahmed Nassar, said they had not been able to communicate with the fishermen since last November and after their disappearance they came to learn that the GNA authorities had detained them.

The GNA is still holding the fishermen without a clear accusation to justify their detention. Nassar said that the fishermen were not fishing in Libyan territory without a permit.

Nassar explained that the fishermen were working on Libyan boats. Alongside them were a number of colleagues working on boats that belong to the Al-Wefaq government. They were not approached by anyone unlike their detained colleagues who were arrested and sent to prison without being charged with any crime.

The Fishermen’s Syndicate chief said that people had called on the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the government, and the consular section had also been contacted about the matter.

Many of the detained fishermen come from Kafr El-Sheikh, while others come from Abu Qir in the governorate of Alexandria.

The fishermen had been supporting families of up to eight members.

Egyptian authorities say they are exerting great efforts to bring the fishermen back safely, while the fishermen’s families continue to demand safety and justice for the men.