SIDON, Lebanon: Daily life resumed at Sidon’s Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp over the weekend, after nearly two weeks of strikes protesting the Labor Ministry’s crackdown on undocumented foreign labor.
Trucks loaded with food products, vegetables, fuel and other wares Saturday entered Ain al-Hilweh, Lebanon’s largest Palestinian camp by population, which picked up its normal activities after all of its shops had closed as part of the protests.
Sunday, two of the camp’s four entrances were opened for residents commuting by car, while the remaining entrances were opened for pedestrians.
Since the strikes began, protesters at Ain al-Hilweh had blocked the camp’s entrances, preventing residents from leaving and food products from entering.
Saturday, the entrances to Sidon’s Mieh Mieh camp were also opened following a series of protests there.
Palestinians across all 12 of Lebanon’s refugee camps have protested in the past two weeks against a Labor Ministry crackdown on foreign labor.
Labor Minister Camille Abousleiman has insisted that the operation, which has seen inspectors close down and issue fines to a number of businesses, is simply implementing the existing labor law that requires foreign workers to obtain work permits.
However, Palestinians have argued that the campaign unfairly targets them, since many of them do not possess the requisite documents to obtain a labor permit and who, unlike other migrant workers, are refugees and do not have a homeland to return to.
The gradual return to normalcy comes as Palestinian sources told The Daily Star Sunday that excitement toward the protests among the Ain al-Hilweh’s residents had begun to decrease. Sources at the camp told The Daily Star Saturday that the Joint Palestinian Labor Authority had met Friday night and decided to reopen Ain al-Hilweh’s entrances, hold a day of Lebanese-Palestinian solidarity Monday and continue demonstrations every Friday until the Labor Ministry ended its crackdown.
The body also decided to take the lead in organizing any upcoming protests at Ain al-Hilweh against the Labor Ministry. The sources said the move was hailed by the camp’s various Palestinian groups as a way to maintain the original aim of the protests and prevent their exploitation for political gain. They added that Lebanese security agencies had previously warned the Palestinian factions that their protests could potentially be hijacked by outsiders.
The sources also said the various groups were keen on ensuring the camp maintained a good relationship with the city of Sidon.