SIDON, Lebanon: Demonstrations carried on over the weekend by Palestinians who say that a crackdown on foreign labor unfairly targets them, as they geared up to push forward with protests that paralyzed parts of southern Lebanon last week. Members of the Army deployed around Sidon Sunday afternoon.
They dispersed a group of young people who had gathered on Dallaa Street in central Sidon and set up a temporary checkpoint outside the Shuhada Mosque to prevent marches from beginning or unruly protesters massing.
The Army requested that peaceful protesters move to smaller streets in order to maintain a smooth flow of traffic.
Meanwhile, residents of Sidon’s Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp burned trash and wood in the camp’s streets. The protests continued from last week, when, beginning Monday, plumes of black smoke billowed from camps across large swaths of Lebanon, including Burj al-Barajneh and Mar Elias.
At Ain al-Hilweh, Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, protesters blocked the entrances, preventing residents from leaving and food products from entering.
The protesters oppose a move by the Labor Ministry to more stringently enforce a law that requires non-Lebanese workers to hold a work permit. While most Palestinian refugee families in Lebanon have lived in the country for several generations, Palestinians are still legally considered foreign workers.
In 2012, the International Labor Organization found that only 2 percent of Palestinian workers had obtained a permit.
The protests began last Monday after the ministry began closing shops and issuing fines to businesses that employed a foreign worker without a permit.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency stopped collecting waste in Ain al-Hilweh from Tuesday to Thursday because of general strikes. UNRWA-run clinics in the camp also closed.
Late last week, Labor Minister Camille Abousleiman announced measures to facilitate Palestinians’ ability to obtain a work permit.
However, Palestinian authorities in Sidon’s camps have rejected the minister’s attempts at compromise and have said they would continue calling for protests Monday.
The demonstrations continued over the weekend despite calls from local officials that the protesters turn down the intensity of their actions a notch.
Hozeifa El-Mallah, the principal of the Oman Model School in Sidon, a public school authorized to teach non-Lebanese students, said in a Facebook post Saturday that the protesters should use different tactics to achieve their aims.
The protests must be organized, he told The Daily Star, so that the demonstrators do not lose Lebanese sympathy with the movement. To achieve this, a number of practices should be avoided, Mallah said.
“Some of the protests do not have a leader or someone in charge. ... These are spontaneous movements,” he said on Facebook.
“There must be controls put on these marches,” Mallah said, to subvert the image of the protesters as bare-chested young men, their faces covered with masks.
Local MP Osama Saad has invited Palestinian factions and youth members to a meeting Monday evening to discuss methods of protest that would not negatively influence the protesters’ demands.