Lebanon News

Lebanese, Palestinians protest labor crackdown

Palestinians protest in Ain al-Hilweh, July 18, 2019. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON/BEIRUT: Lebanese and Palestinians staged sit-ins in solidarity with Palestinian refugees Monday, in the latest protests against the Labor Ministry’s crackdown on undocumented foreign labor.

A sit-in was organized at Ain al-Hilweh, Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, by the Joint Palestinian Labor Authority in Sidon.

The head of the Islamic Jihad Movement, Sheikh Jamal Khattab, the labor authority’s representative at the sit-in, said the authority wouldn’t meet with Labor Minister Camille Abousleiman unless the outcome was guaranteed to be positive.

“Why would we meet just for the sake of meeting if there will be no change in the position?” he added.

Another solidarity protest was held at the Labor Ministry, where dozens of demonstrators, mostly Lebanese, gathered.

Residents across all 12 of Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps have protested in the past two weeks against a Labor Ministry crackdown on foreign labor.

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.

The Labor Ministry said that between July 10 and July 29, it issued over a 1,000 fines, warnings and closures against business deemed to have violated the labor law.

Palestinians have argued that the campaign unfairly targets them, since many do not possess the requisite documents to obtain a labor permit and, as refugees, they do not have a homeland to return to, unlike other migrant workers.

Earlier Monday, a Palestinian delegation didn’t attend a meeting at the Grand Serail in Beirut to discuss the ministry’s crackdown.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri had called for the meeting, according to a statement from the Labor Ministry. Instead, Abousleiman ended up only meeting with Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee chair Hasan Mneimneh.

“I regret that the Palestinian [side] didn’t attend and I ask them to provide me with their suggestions,” Abousleiman told reporters after the meeting.

“But the approach to dialogue and their setting conditions before the meeting, this is something we reject and it won’t work with us.”

Mneimneh told reporters that the Palestinian side had informed him that it wouldn’t attend the meeting.

“From their point of view, up until today they didn’t receive any serious promises to solve this issue,” he said.

“We will continue with this dialogue and we hope to reach solutions to the matter.”

A march in solidarity with Palestinian refugees will be held Tuesday evening from Sidon’s Martyrs’ Square to the city’s Nijmeh Square. MP Osama Saad, who heads the Popular Nasserite Organization, will give a speech during the event.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 30, 2019, on page 2.




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