Lebanese Municipalities: Regulating Refugee Presence is “Our Jurisdiction”
Before closing his vegetables shop located in Beirut’s southern suburb [Dahieh], Syrian refugee Mahmoud, 33 years of age and father of two, depended on his income to secure a living for himself and his family. The municipality sent Mahmoud two warnings to close down his shop, but he ignored them since there is no other way for him to support his family. Finally, a police patrol sealed off the shop with red wax. Since then, Mahmoud has been unemployed and living off of some assistance he receives from his family. Mahmoud knows very little about the Lebanese Labor Law. He does not know the main reason why his shop was closed. Now, six months later, Mahmoud is trying to find a Lebanese sponsor, hoping to secure legal work in Lebanon. He says that, “a sponsor costs at least US$500, not to mention residency fees of LL300,000 [US$198]”.
Mahmoud’s case is not an exception. It is part of the campaign conducted by municipalities to close down Syrian-owned institutions, and force other establishments to dismiss Syrian workers. For example, after a similar campaign in al-Hadath area of Baabda district (Mount Lebanon), it became obvious that all the Syrian workers of one famous cake bakery have been replaced with Lebanese workers. The media circulated the municipalities’ decisions to initiate a campaign to close businesses that are managed by Syrians. These municipalities include Aley in Mount Lebanon, Baysarieh in Saida, Dekwaneh in Metn, Ashqout in Keserwan, and Naameh in Chouf district.
What Legal Authorization?
Since the beginning of 2017, several municipalities in Lebanon have taken action against Syrian refugees working in certain professions restricted to Lebanese citizens. The municipalities either evict them, or close the shops they run. These actions are based on Decision 1/41 issued by the Minister of Labor on January 28, 2017, concerning the definition of professions restricted to Lebanese citizens. Upon contacting these municipalities, they confirmed their jurisdiction in this regard. However, the Municipalities Law does not have any reference as to whether this body has powers to regulate the labor market, or restrict the right of any individual to work. The matter of fact is this falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labor, exercised through its inspectors. However, Lebanese authorities were content with pitting municipalities against Syrian workers without putting in place a plan to confront the crisis.
Did the Ministry of Labor delegate its powers to the municipalities? And based on what power does the latter act? The Legal Agenda sought clarification about this issue over and over again from Minister of Labor Mohamed Kabara. He kept delaying his response, now weeks into inquiry. It is noteworthy that the decision invoked by the municipalities as a legal instrument for these measures, is one issued annually by the minister of labor to define the professions restricted to Lebanese citizens. The decision issued by Minister Kabara was consistent with Decision No. 1/179 which was issued by former minister Sajaan Azzi in 2016, where Syrians were prohibited from working in all trades and crafts restricted to Lebanese citizens; except for three: agriculture, construction, and environment. Ministry of Labor statistics obtained by The Legal Agenda indicate that the Ministry issued 1,567 work permits for Syrian citizens in 2016 (206 new permits and 1,361 renewed). It also issued 2,150 permits in 2015, and 1,558 in 2014.
For his part, lawyer Nabil Halabi, director of the Lebanese Democratic Human Rights Organization, said that restricting professions to Lebanese citizens is futile. The Lebanese authority does not develop plans that would benefit from the Syrian labor force in these professions. Halabi recalls the European Union’s initiative in the past years to establish waste sorting plants in several areas in Lebanon. He states: “Had these factories been established, they would have created a large number of job opportunities for Syrians, as they depend on manual sorting, especially since the Ministry limited their work to the environment sector.”
In a related context, Halabi believes that the Turkish experience has been successful in dealing with the crisis, where the “Turkish government separated Syrian refugees into two categories. The first one is the most vulnerable and the most in need for protection and assistance. The government provided regular camps and food assistance to this group. As for the second category, Halabi says, “It is the well-to-do class. The Turkish government allowed them to invest in the country and that resulted in creating new job opportunities on the one hand, and contributing to the recovery of the economy on the other”. “Unfortunately the Lebanese government did not adopt this approach; rather, it compared the Syrian situation with that of the [very different] experience of Palestinian camps in Lebanon”, Halabi adds. He then goes on to say that “the Lebanese government could have allowed Syrian investment in Lebanon. They would pay much higher taxes, and the government would require them to employ three Lebanese for every foreign employee”.
Municipalities Carrying Out Their “Duties”
In this context, despite the lack of clarity on the part of the Ministry with regard to the delegation of legal powers authorizing municipalities to play this role, Mayor of Dekwana in the district of Metn (Mount Lebanon) Antoine Shakhtoura says it is the duty of the municipality to comply with all the decisions of the Ministry of Labor. He goes on to say that “these procedures are our prerogative even without a circular from the Ministry of Interior”. He adds that “the Ministry of Interior has asked them by mail to take the necessary measures” pursuant to the professions restriction decision issued by the Ministry of Labor, after publication in the Official Gazette. Shakhtoura goes on to say that, “some 70 businesses hiring Syrians have been questioned, and around 20 Syrian-run businesses have been closed in Dekwana”. Shakhtoura then says that “some Lebanese resort to trickery by renting their shops to Syrians, claiming that the latter work for them, while the reality is that these Syrians are the ones who run the shops. In this case, we close down the institution”.
Nazih Ali Abed, head of the Baysarieh municipality in Saida district (South Governorate) says: “The Lebanese population of the town is 4,500 while the number of Syrians is up to 8,000”, adding that “there is a state of confusion between the residents and the Syrians”. Ali Abed appeals to the Lebanese state for help, suggesting that it “take a step with the Syrian government to secure a safe refuge for them in Syria”. He goes on to say that “some 33 shops run by Syrians have been closed, including shops selling butter, chicken, household items, and others.” He points out that this measure is to protect Syrians as they make up the largest number of foreigners in the village, adding that the municipality has warded off a street clash between Baysarieh residents and Syrians; especially since locals had smashed Syrian-run shops in other municipalities. Obviously, these measures are exclusively towards the refugees, not Syrians who lived in Lebanon before the crisis, as his statements indicate. On that, Ali Abed says: “There are Syrians that have been running shops in the town since before the crisis, and they have not been attacked…The main problem is regarding those who do not have work permits.”
Children and Husbands of Lebanese Women
The Ministry of Labor’s circular has even affected the children of Lebanese mothers and their [foreign] husbands. According to the “My Nationality is a Right for Me and My Family” campaign, there have been several cases of dismissal of employees from this category based on the decision of the Ministry of Labor. On April 5, 2017, the campaign organizers carried out a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Labor.
In this context, campaign leader Karima Chebbo stressed that “inspectors of the Ministry of Labor are directing warnings to workers born to Lebanese mothers or married to a Lebanese wife, and these measures amount to expulsion from work”. “Before the sit-in, the campaign had already met with the minister of labor who promised that the ministry would work on organizing and facilitating the work of children and husbands of Lebanese women, considering Lebanese give preference for work to this category”, she reiterates. Chebbo emphasizes that “the minister of labor was positive and decided to instruct the ministry’s inspectors to make an exception for those born of Lebanese mothers and their husbands”.
The irony is that after the campaign’s meeting with the minister, they still received complaints from citizens. Chebbo states that the campaign documented several cases in which the municipalities and the ministry’s inspectors directed warnings to employees from these categories, even reaching to the point of expelling them from work. She speaks of a Lebanese woman married to a foreigner. The woman owns a shop where she works with her husband and son. The latter two have been recently arrested by the ministry of labor which considered them foreign workers. Another case documented by the campaign is about a young man born to a Lebanese mother. He has worked for an organization in Beirut for years, yet the Furn El Chebbak municipality gave him a warning to regularize his status; otherwise he would be subject to expulsion from work. The municipality’s police officer signed the warning which included the phrase: “at the request of the minister of labor”. Chebbo stresses that the complaints received are by citizens of different nationalities, including British, Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian, noting that the ministry’s decision is “not exclusive to Syrians, as the media circulates”.
On this matter, lawyer Ghida Frangieh of The Legal Agenda sees that current labor laws do not do justice to Lebanese women whose [foreign] husbands and children are still treated as foreigners. They are still required to obtain a work permit from the Ministry of Labor as well as a courtesy residency from the public security. Article 3 of the minister of labor’s decision which is issued every year allows the minister to exclude Lebanese children from professions restricted to Lebanese citizens. However, they must obtain a work permit to benefit from this exception.
 See: Laure Ayoub’s, “Baladiyyat al-Hadath Tolzim Bitard “Lajiʾin Suriyyin” Min ʿmalihim: “Notabbiq Qarar al-Wazir”, The Legal Agenda, March 1, 2017.
 Law No. 1/41 issued by the Minister of Labor on January 1, 2017 concerning professions restricted to Lebanese citizens, published in the Official Gazette, Issue No. 7, February 9, 2017.
 Ministry of Labor, Minister Kabara received ILO Regional Director, January 8, 2017, see: https://goo.gl/qG6Uva.
The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition released its latest findings on attacks on health care workers and facilities from 2016, showing a continued ‘widespread and extremely serious problem.’
The Last Country We “Liberated” from an “Evil” Dictator Is Now Openly Trading Slaves
By Carey Wedler
It is widely known that the U.S.-led NATO intervention to topple Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 resulted in a power vacuum that has allowed terror groups like ISIS to gain a foothold in the country.
Despite the destructive consequences of the 2011 invasion, the West is currently taking a similar trajectory with regard to Syria. Just as the Obama administration excoriated Gaddafi in 2011, highlighting his human rights abuses and insisting he must be removed from power to protect the Libyan people, the Trump administration is now pointing to the repressive policies of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and warning his regime will soon come to an end — all in the name of protecting Syrian civilians.
But as the U.S. and its allies fail to produce legal grounds for their recent air strike — let alone provide concrete evidence to back up their claims Assad was responsible for a deadly chemical attack last week — more hazards of invading foreign countries and removing their heads of state are emerging.
This week, new findings revealed another unintended consequence of “humanitarian intervention”: the growth of the human slave trade.
The Guardian reports that while “violence, extortion and slave labor” have been a reality for people trafficked through Libya in the past, the slave trade has recently expanded. Today, people are selling other human beings out in the open.
“The latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages [in Libya],” said Mohammed Abdiker, head of operation and emergencies for the International Office of Migration, an intergovernmental organization that promotes “humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all,” according to its website. “The situation is dire. The more IOM engages inside Libya, the more we learn that it is a vale of tears for all too many migrants.”
The North African country is commonly used as a point of exit for refugees fleeing other parts of the continent. But since Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, “the vast, sparsely populated country has slid into violent chaos and migrants with little cash and usually no papers are particularly vulnerable,” the Guardian explains.
One survivor from Senegal said he was passing through Libya from Niger with a group of other migrants attempting to flee their home countries. They had paid a smuggler to transport them via bus to the coast, where they would risk taking a boat to Europe. But rather than take them to the coast, the smuggler took them to a dusty lot in Sabha, Libya. According to Livia Manente, an IOM officer who interviews survivors, “their driver suddenly said middlemen had not passed on his fees and put his passengers up for sale.”
“Several other migrants confirmed his story, independently describing kinds of slave markets as well as kinds of private prisons all over in Libya,” she said, adding IOM Italy had confirmed similar stories from migrants landing in southern Italy.
The Senegalese survivor said he was taken to a makeshift prison, which the Guardian notes are common in Libya.
“Those held inside are forced to work without pay, or on meager rations, and their captors regularly call family at home demanding a ransom. His captors asked for 300,000 west African francs (about £380), then sold him on to a larger jail where the demand doubled without explanation.”
When migrants were held too long without having a ransom paid for them, they were taken away and killed. “Some wasted away on meager rations in unsanitary conditions, dying of hunger and disease, but overall numbers never fell,” the Guardian reported.
“If the number of migrants goes down, because of death or someone is ransomed, the kidnappers just go to the market and buy one,” Manente said.
Giuseppe Loprete, IOM Niger’s chief of mission, confirmed these disturbing reports. “It’s very clear they see themselves as being treated as slaves,” he said. He arranged for the repatriation of 1,500 migrants just in the first three months of this year and is concerned more stories and incidents will emerge as more migrants return from Libya.
“And conditions are worsening in Libya so I think we can also expect more in the coming months,” he added.
As the United States government continues to entertain regime change in Syria as a viable solution to the many crises in that country, it is becoming ever-more evident that ousting dictators — however detestable they may be — is not effective. Toppling Saddam Hussein led not only to the deaths of civilians and radicalization within the population, but also the rise of ISIS.
As Libya, once a beacon of stability in the region, continues to devolve in the fallout from the Western “humanitarian” intervention – and as human beings are dragged into emerging slave trades while rapes and kidnappings plague the population — it is increasingly obvious that further war will only create even further suffering in unforeseen ways.
This article was originally published at The Anti-Media.
THOUGHTS OF AN INITIATED IN PEACE DISCIPLE OF A LIVING AVATAR
I translate the word Nidhidhyasana with my own authority as “RADIATING”. Even though the word literally means “Expressing” or “Living”, I am translating this word as Radiating. It is a little more powerful!
What I mean exactly by the word Nidhidhyasana – “Radiating”?
Please understand, let your every decision every moment, every action every moment, every word every moment be aligned to what you authentically listened (shravana) and to what you authentically internalized (manana). Removing the gap between your internalized, intranalyzed great truths and your living.
If you authentically listened, if you have done Shravana, listening authentically, Manana, intranalyzing authentically, you will be radiating authentically. Nothing can be done about it! When the Shravana, listening, and Manana, intranalyzing, happens authentically, Nidhidhyasana, radiating will happen authentically.
Intranalyzing and Radiating! Please listen, your life needs to be constantly powerful. You should be living to do what you want. You…
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Syrian children are living through a dictator’s internationally assisted, UN-approved genocide, while the world lauds the dictator and demonises his victims.
‘Syrian doctor coins new term for children’s extreme war-trauma’
25-02-2017: ‘Syria’s children of war have experienced more trauma, physical and emotional pain, than any medical professionals have seen.
The oft-orphaned children, who have had members of their family blown apart by a regime barrel bomb or a Russian cruise missile or even a US airstrike, are suffering more than just post-traumatic stress.
These children are suffering from “Human devastation syndrome,” Dr Mohammad K Hamza, a neuropsychologist with the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS), told ATTN on Friday.
Dr Hamza, who also chairs the mental health committee of SAMS, believes the destruction witnessed by Syrian children is beyond what any soldier at war can see.
“We have talked to so many children, and their devastation is above and beyond what even soldiers are able to see in the war,” Dr Hamza said.
“They have seen dismantled human beings that used to be their parents, or their siblings. You get out of a family of five or six or 10 or whatever – you get one survivor, two survivors sometimes. A lot of them have physical impairments. Amputations. Severe injuries. And they’ve made it to the refugee camp somehow.”
Dr Hamza told ATTN that the emotional and psychological problem does not stop there. The suffering of Syrian children continues as they endure poverty and exploitation of life in a refugee camp.’