BEIRUT: Families of students studying abroad protested on Tuesday against Lebanese banks for their procrastination in implementing the “Student Dollar” law that enables families to transfer funds to their children at universities in other countries.
In the Beirut neighborhood of Hamra, protesters prevented employees from entering the banks and blocked traffic with burning tires. Other protesters attempted to raid a closed bank while staff worked inside.
Parents cannot transfer money due to the sudden rise in the exchange rate of the dollar. As a result, some students studying abroad have been expelled from their universities and their residencies have been canceled, while others await the same fate.
In October 2020, the Lebanon Parliament approved the Student Dollar law, which allowed Lebanese banks to dispense up to $10,000 according to the official exchange rate (LBP 1,515 to the dollar). That money would go to every Lebanese student enrolled in a foreign university or technical institute prior to the 2020-2021 academic year. The law also included students who did not have a bank account.
According to the Association of Families of Lebanese Students Abroad, 200 students have been expelled from universities so far. A majority of the students were enrolled in Europe or Russia.
Banks are refusing to implement the Student Dollar law because no decrees have been issued.
Meanwhile, the families of prisoners in Lebanon also took to the streets on Tuesday to protest authorities who have reduced the volume of meals for inmates. Due to the rising prices, meals have reportedly been served to prisoners without meat.
Families protested near Roumieh Prison, the country’s largest correctional facility.
As protests rage in the streets of Lebanon, thefts have also swelled to unprecedented levels, according to a security source. One suspect, who is already in custody, allegedly stole more than 100 Kia and Hyundai cars and was trying to resell them in Syria.
“He also formed a robbery gang and there are many arrest warrants and prison sentences against him,” an official security report said.
A Lebanese soldier, who was later identified as a member of the army intelligence forces, was arrested along with one of his relatives for a robbery attempt in Aley. The soldier said his salary was not enough, which forced him to resort to theft.
“The owner of a livestock farm arrested the robbers after they seized iron scaffolding and then he handed the suspects over to the municipal police. One suspect was found to be carrying a military card,” the Progressive Socialist Party said.
Meanwhile, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Monday night.
“Le Drian has deplored the months-long total deadlock in the discussions aimed at forming a government in Lebanon,” the French Embassy said in a statement.
Le Drian reiterated that Lebanon’s political forces as a whole bear complete responsibility for this impasse and stressed that any deliberate blocking of government formation must end immediately.
On another note, Lebanon’s private sector opened its first coronavirus vaccination campaign on Tuesday as the operation targeted Middle East Airlines employees, airport staff and workers.
“The goal is to continue working in companies and institutions that have seen a decline in productivity due to employees and their families contracting the virus,” said Jacques Sarraf, Pharmaline chairman, who played a major role in bringing the Sputnik V vaccine to the private sector in Lebanon.
“If the private sector wants to wait for the state to vaccinate its employees, it has to wait for more than a year.”
Lebanon began its state-run inoculation campaign in mid-February after finalizing a deal for some 2 million doses with Pfizer, the Associated Press reported. The first batch of 50,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccines arrived last week, making Lebanon one of few nations where the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is being boosted by the private sector.