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Weekly News Report: September 27-October 3, 2021

Photos of non-Lebanese victims of the Beirut explosion, from Legal Agenda

Note: The past few weeks, specifically last week, saw a surge in media coverage of the situation of Syrian refugees by media outlets in ways that scapegoat and demonize them, portraying them as part of the factors leading to Lebanon’s current crisis. These articles usually entail misinformation, inciting violence on the basis of false figures and numbers, and deliberate exclusion of relevant key facts and details.

The Anti-Racism Movement is planning to publish a regular Racism Monitor through which we aim to compile and analyze all racist incidents, policies, decisions, political developments and media discourse related to migrants and refugees in Lebanon.

We will publish the Racism Monitor on our online platform in the next month and reach out to supporters and followers to report. In the meantime, you can subscribe to our weekly news report and media roundup by emailing us at media@armlebanon.org to stay updated, and you can send us a message on our online platforms to report any such incidents or coverage.

Press Conference on Emergency Response Plan [here]

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Roshid spoke at a conference on the Emergency Response Plan which entails humanitarian assistance to 1.1 million Lebanese and migrants in several sectors. The following points relevant to migrants and refugees were noted:

  • The results of the 2021 Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR), published on September 29, revealed that 1 out of 9 Syrians in Lebanon are living well below the poverty line (VASyR is conducted by UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Food Program (WFP);

  • High levels of poverty were also found among the Palestinian refugee population;

  • The findings of a recent assessment by the International Organization for migration (IOM) revealed that 70% of nearly 400,000 migrant workers and migrant domestic workers are unable to secure food and basic needs, and are struggling with unemployment and lack of means to be evacuated to their home countries.

Report on Alarming Rise of Poverty among Syrian Refugees [here] and [here]

A survey by UNHCR assessing 5,035 Syrian households revealed that around 90% suffer from extreme poverty in the context of doubling debts per household and increasing children dropouts from schools due to rising associated costs (transportation; books, material..). The assessment was conducted as part of the annual VASyR cited above.

A decline in the number of Syrian refugees possessing legal residency permits compared to last year was also noted due to the high fees of renewing papers, fear of rejection, and/or of deportation in case the period of not having valid papers is deemed too long.

Racist Report Comparing Conditions of Lebanese and Syrian People [here]

Nidaa Al Watan published an article comparing the living conditions of Lebanese people to those of Syrian refugees -who are called “migrants” in the article.

The article starts with clear misinformation about the “comfortable” situation it claims Syrians have due to aid, compared to the lengths Lebanese go to secure basic necessities and to avoid resorting to humanitarian aid, and goes on to blame humanitarian organizations for allegedly prioritizing Syrians over Lebanese.

The following is a list of misinformation cited in the article with our corrections:

Misinformation: The article claims that Syrian refugees benefit from a “monthly salary” in USD through Banque-Libano Francaise (BLF), and from support and aid for schooling and health care.

Facts:

  • The article seems to be deliberately excluding the source of said cash assistance in an attempt to scapegoat Syrians and lead the average Lebanese reader to conclude that Syrians are a main source of the crisis.

  • In reality, the cash assistance is only given to Syrians registered with the UNHCR before 2015, after which they stopped registering new refugees even though a high number of Syrians fled to Lebanon after 2015 and hence are not benefiting from this aid.

  • The amount of aid has been reported by many Syrians to be insufficient over the years; given that it differs from one family to the other depending on a set of criteria such as health conditions, number of family members etc.

  • Most importantly, the cash assistance program for Syrian refugees is funded mostly by European countries and the US [here], and not by money that was supposed to be channelled for programs and aid for Lebanese people. Hence, it is a faulty conclusion to claim that Syrians are taking away money and resources from Lebanese people.

  • Misinformation: Syrians dominate all essential sectors and jobs in Lebanon and make at least 120,000 LBP per day, while Lebanese people make a maximum amount of 30,000LBP per day.

  • Fact: As reported by the survey above, which was conducted by 3 UN agencies, too many Syrians report inability to secure jobs, with an alarming rate of extreme poverty and lack of access to essential services. 

 

Misinformation: NGOs and humanitarian agencies only support Syrians.

Facts:

  • NGOs, including ARM, constantly receive complaints by Syrians about being denied aid and support by humanitarian organizations especially since the onset of the current crisis.

  • The exaggerated and problematic amount of media coverage of aid for Syrians creates a misconception that civil society and UN agencies only want to support Syrians at the expense of Lebanese people, often without citing a reason or an argument for that claim. In addition, an increasing number of organizations started designing their aid programs to support Lebanese, refugees and migrants since the beginning of the crisis.

  • In fact, ARM and other organizations regularly receive many testimonies from Syrians about being denied aid and support since the Beirut blast last year and were given explicitly racist reasons.

New List of Non-Lebanese Victims of Beirut Blast [here]

A new comprehensive list of 72 non-Lebanese victims of the Beirut explosion was published by Legal Agenda and Rights Frontiers in an article on the lack of compensation by the Lebanese state, and the discrepancies between official and non-official lists.

The list included the following nationalities: One Palestinian; one Pakistani, one Iranian, one German; one Dutch; one Australian; one French; 2 Ethiopians; 3 Egyptians; 4 Filipinas; 6 Bangladeshis; and 50 Syrians.

New Tool to Calculate Work Hours Needed to Afford Basic Needs in Lebanon [here]

L’Orient Today released a new tool to calculate the number of hours a person needs to work in order to afford basic needs and items in Lebanon, including bread and sanitary pads. This tool is based on the National minimum wage, in Lebanese pound, which remains 675,000 LBP to this day and does not apply to migrant workers given the exclusion of their jobs from the labor law.

This tool would likely come in handy in the context of formal employment and could be useful to account for employment in informal jobs and sectors where workers suffer lack of protection. In the case of migrant workers and migrant domestic workers, the additional burden of having to send remittances back home would be reflected in too many hours, with the rise of prices and basic necessities to get by.

Calls against Deporting Three Syrian Men Detained at Beirut Airport [here] and [here]

Three Syrian men, Ahmad al-Waked, Tarek al-Aalu, and Fares al-Zoubi, face the risk of deportation by the General Security (GS) after they were stopped at Beirut airport on 3 different dates in mid-September while on their way to board a plane to Belarus. All 3 men entered Lebanon illegally 2 months ago while fleeing Daraa in Syria, and at least 2 are still detained without any criminal charges according to a statement by Amnesty International, urging “that they be released or charged with a crime recognized under international law.”

Waked and Aalu are reportedly both being detained at the GS’s Information unit. While al-Zoubi is in an unknown location after being first transferred to the Lebanese Army Military Police. 

Stories of Migrants from the Philippines in the Middle East [here]

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung published stories and testimonies of 3 migrant workers from the Philippines in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia during the first phases of the pandemic. Their period of employment in the 2 countries entailed sexual violence and labor exploitation by employers, as well as abuse by recruitment agencies.

The article argues for a transnational justice mechanism to retrieve unpaid wages and retroactively hold employers and abusive agencies accountable, as advocated since the start of the pandemic by the Migrant Forum Asia in the “Justice for Wage Theft” campaign.

Five Migrants who Worked on Planning Dubai Expo Dead [here]

The organizers of Dubai Expo stated that 5 migrants who worked in the reconstruction for the event died due to severe working conditions. The spokesperson admitted that authorities were well aware of the dire conditions the migrants were forced to work under, and that the organizers resolved the issue.

This follows the European Union’s call on countries to opt out of participating in the Expo due the conditions inflicted on migrant workers which included forcibly signing contracts in language they cannot read, confiscating their passports, overworking them for long hours, among other violations.