Anger in Lebanon as Palestinian refugees gain labor rights

BEIRUT: Labor Minister Mustafa Bayram finalized the decision on Wednesday, but it was criticized, especially by the Christian right, who launched a campaign against the minister.

The decision allows Palestinian refugees – many of whom are doctors, lawyers and nurses – to work in management, business, tourism, industry, information, health, hospitality, and other sectors. education and services.

It includes “Palestinians born in Lebanese territories, born to a Lebanese mother or married to a Lebanese citizen, and unregistered Palestinians who were born in Lebanon,” but prohibits them from joining the state security services or free trade unions.

Major political parties and figures criticized the Palestinian refugees and condemned the decision, warning that it was the start of a campaign for naturalization.

Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, said: “The decision violates labor law and the constitution. It is a veiled naturalization and it is rejected.

In a tweet, he called on unions to reject the decree and urged the Lebanese public to ignore it. “This is unacceptable and we will not allow the theft of jobs from the Lebanese under such circumstances,” he said.

Former Labor Minister Sejaan Kazzi said Bayram’s decision “contradicts the decision released in 2015”, adding: “This new resolution will increase the unemployment rate of the Lebanese people by 40% and will open the door to settling and to naturalization.

The Kataeb party said: “Instead of Bayram increasing the opportunities for the Lebanese to prevent their state of destitution – with hundreds of them being made redundant – it allowed non-Lebanese to compete with them for their rights. means of subsistence. “

A source examining the right of Palestinian refugees to work in Lebanon told Arab News that former labor minister Trad Hamadeh tried to pass a similar decree which was overturned by the next prime minister.

The source said: “There is no specific mechanism for the adoption of a ministerial decree.

“Bayram’s decision does not affect Palestinians whose specializations require membership in powerful unions. These unions also prevent non-member Lebanese from exercising their profession.

“This decision only allows Palestinian labor to be used in occupations that do not require advanced degrees. These are modest crafts and labor in which the Lebanese do not want to work.

“At the same time, this decision avoids a social crisis in the camps due to the economic collapse and many unemployed young Palestinians who turn to drugs and theft. In other words, it is a decision to defuse the situation.

“Palestinian refugees contribute to the Lebanese economy; thousands of them are paid in dollars by the Palestine Liberation Organization or international organizations and they spend their money in Lebanon.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Bayram said: “What was prohibited by the constitution and the laws is still prohibited for non-Lebanese. Foreign workers in all sectors work under an exceptional license issued by the Ministry of Labor. However, the Lebanese people have priority in all professions.

He added: “90% of the people who criticize us have not read the whole decision. The Lebanese worker has priority and the exception is granted to the foreign worker. Certain sectors do not appeal to the Lebanese, such as the construction and agriculture sector, where we have given priority to foreign workers.

“The decree grants privileges to Palestinians by exempting them from a work permit and allowing them to join social security. We are struggling in the job market and trying to fill in the gaps. The Lebanese market needs foreign labor.

On social media, FPM supporters have launched a campaign against Bayram. Some activists have referred to the use of “foreigners,” a term used to describe Palestinian refugees during the civil war.

Meanwhile, at the end of his tour of Lebanon to examine the situation of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said: “The living conditions in the camps continue to deteriorate, and the Palestinians, who are some of Lebanon’s most marginalized groups, are now extremely desperate, frustrated and angry.

He adds: “I have met graduates whose only hope for a better future is to emigrate. I met a young father who had nightmares about how to buy milk for his child. I heard of a man who killed his wife for sharing the family’s food basket with hungry neighbors. In addition, there is an increase in the rate of child labor, divorces and the collapse of the social fabric. “

Lazzarini welcomed any measure that could ease restrictions on the rights of Palestinian refugees and pledged to “make an effort to increase the funding required”.

He said: “The economic and financial collapse in Lebanon has been accompanied by financial difficulties for UNRWA to maintain basic services for refugees, such as education, health and social networks.

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