People in Arab countries want US to relax travel restrictions: survey

People in Arab countries want US to relax travel restrictions: survey
The US, long known as the land of opportunity, has always been high on the list for aspiring immigrants. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 27 October 2020

People in Arab countries want US to relax travel restrictions: survey

People in Arab countries want US to relax travel restrictions: survey
  • Arab News/YouGov survey shows desire to see US ease curbs on visitors from Arab countries
  • The US imposed travel bans on people from a number of war-torn Middle East states in 2017

BEIRUT: In the wake of the uprisings that shook the Arab world starting in 2011, political unrest and economic hardship across the Middle East and North Africa have left many clamoring to leave the region in search of safety and better opportunities elsewhere.
The US, long known as the land of opportunity, has always been high on the list for aspiring immigrants. Predictably enough, as many as three quarters of respondents to the Arab News/YouGov pan-Arab survey said they want the next US administration to make it easier for people from Arab countries to travel to the US.
“Many of the young generation of Lebanese want to leave the country today. It feels like history is repeating itself. It’s exactly what happened 36 years ago when I left. Anybody who could afford to leave would leave,” said Rania Matar, a Lebanese-Palestinian photographer currently on a visit to Beirut from Boston.
“However, unless people have American citizenship, the Lebanese and Arabs alike don’t seem as interested in the US as before. They seem more interested in going to Canada or Europe, and perhaps that’s due to the stringent travel restrictions that the US has placed many Arab nations under.”

Indeed, over the past three years it has become increasingly difficult for people from Arab countries to travel to the US, especially after President Donald Trump, who is up for re-election on Nov. 3, imposed sweeping travel bans on people from a number of Muslim-majority countries in 2017.
Executive Order 13769 placed tight restrictions on citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Plaintiffs challenging the order said the move was unconstitutional and broke federal statutes.
As a result, Trump issued Executive Order 13780, which amended some provisions of the first order, including the removal of Iraq from the list.
“Of course, they should ease up restrictions, especially for the younger generation, as they have zero opportunities in this part of the world,” Basel Dalloul, a tech entrepreneur who lives in Beirut, told Arab News.

“The US is still the land of opportunity for people in this part of the world. If you work hard and are tenacious in the US, chances are that you will make it and that’s what the US means to people here.”
For the 18 countries polled by the survey, 75 percent of respondents agreed that the US should make it easier for people from Arab countries to enter. The corresponding figure for Lebanon was even higher, 79 percent.
“The Lebanese are leaving Lebanon in droves,” said Dalloul. “Everyone and anyone who has the means to leave is leaving. The banking system here has collapsed. You can take out only 2 million Lebanese pounds now per week ($270 at the black-market rate). How does a family survive on that when they need to pay for rent, food, electricity and education?”


READ: The methodology behind the Arab News/YouGov Pan-Arab Survey


Lebanon has been rocked by mass anti-government protests since Oct. 2019, which began in response to new taxes. The protests soon escalated into expressions of rage against the entire political establishment.
Matters were made even worse on Aug. 4 when a port fire ignited a warehouse full of ammonium nitrate. The resulting blast devastated the city, leaving 203 dead and 6,500 injured.

The disaster seemed to underscore the perceived corruption and ineptitude of Lebanese officials and compounded public anger. With coronavirus containment measures already squeezing the job market, many young Lebanese have simply had enough.
According to this year’s Arab Youth Survey, two in five young Arabs are thinking about emigrating due to the lack of economic prospects brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, conflict and corruption.
Some 15 percent of 18-24-year-old respondents said they are actively trying to leave.
“There’s not many opportunities for Arab youth in the Middle East now,” said Mohamed Tahir, a Lebanese entrepreneur from Beirut. “It’s not just Lebanese but Arab youth across the region, including the Gulf.”

Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor

 


Lebanon investigates death of former customs official

Updated 1 min 32 sec ago

Lebanon investigates death of former customs official

Lebanon investigates death of former customs official
  • Col. Munir Abu Rjeili was found dead, in his home in Qartaba, some 40 km northeast of Beirut, from a blow to the head
  • Leading Druze politician Walid Jumblatt questioned whether there was a link with the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut port

BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities are investigating the killing of a retired customs officer in what a leading politician described as a “terrible incident.”
Col. Munir Abu Rjeili was found dead in his home on Wednesday in Qartaba, some 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Beirut, with a blow to the head, a security source said.
Leading Druze politician Walid Jumblatt asked on Twitter on Thursday what was behind the killing. He questioned whether there was a link with the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut port that killed about 200 people and devastated swathes of the capital.
“Is this terrible incident to obstruct any serious investigation into the case of the explosion at Beirut port?” Jumblatt wrote.
But a senior interior ministry source said: “So far, no link has been found between the port and the murder.”
Abu Rjeili’s career in Lebanese customs included leading a Beirut division that counters overland smuggling, serving at the airport and heading a division of the Higher Customs Council, according to CV sent by a relative and lawyer, Joseph Khalil.
Abu Rjeili had not been summoned for questioning in the investigation in to the Beirut blast probe and had not served at the port, the source said.
Khalil, the lawyer, said the family was waiting for the results of the investigation.
Four months since the explosion, Lebanese are still awaiting the final results of the investigation, after authorities promised a full and swift probe.
President Michel Aoun last month called for the acceleration of the investigation.
The first warning about the cargo that blew up in Beirut port came in 2014 from another late Lebanese customs officer, Col. Joseph Skaf. Skaf’s family believe his death in 2017 was murder, possibly connected to his long career as a customs officer fighting criminality and drug smuggling.