Myra Abdallah

Migrant children expelled from Lebanon

Lebanon is rejecting residency renewals of migrant workers’ children born in the country

(Image via humanrights-lb.blogspot.com)

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch reported a “recent decision by General Security, Lebanon’s security agency in charge of foreigners’ entry and residency, to deny residency permit renewals for a number of low-wage migrants who have had children in Lebanon and, for their children, disproportionately interferes with the right to family life.”


This is not the first decision in Lebanon to violate foreigners’ rights and limit their freedom. After many decisions against Syrian and Palestinian refugees, this General Security action tears migrant workers’ families apart by rejecting the renewal of residency papers of migrant workers’ children and, in some cases, the mothers as well.


“This directive was not made public,” said Lama Fakih, Syria and Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Migrant workers were surprised to find out about this decision when they tried to renew their children’s residency papers. We don’t know when this directive was issued. Migrant workers complained about it for the first time in June 2014. We tried to contact General Security to obtain a copy of the directive, but they haven’t sent it yet.”


Fakih also noted that “several NGOs requested a meeting with General Security to try to convince them to reverse the decision or at least make the decision public so migrant workers to learn about it.”


There is no law that forbids a renewal of residency, as long as the applicant has not violated Lebanese law. Fakih told NOW that “migrant workers from categories 2 and 3 (mostly laborers and domestic workers) are not allowed to bring their families with them, but the law does not forbid them from having children in Lebanon, and they are able to obtain residency permits for them so they can go to school and remain in the country.”


Brigadier Joseph Obeid, of the General Security media office, said: “We do not make the law; we only apply the laws issued from the parliament or the government. It is not true that General Security forced migrant workers’ children to leave schools in order to deport them. We applied the law to migrant workers who have illegal residency in Lebanon. The children were expelled with their parents in cases of illegal residencies only, and in cases where we couldn’t make any settlement.” 


In response, Fakih told NOW that the “people who are being denied residency renewals are not people that are in the country illegally. They are people who were regularly renewing their residencies. General Security has not been willing to publicly release this new directive despite the fact that officials within General Security are acknowledging that this directive exists. We continue to urge them to be more transparent about the policies they are implementing and that affect the lives of people who, in some cases, have not known any country other than Lebanon.”


Earlier last week, nine local and international NGOs released a statement condemning the expulsions, and further steps are being prepared to protect migrant workers in Lebanon.


“The plan is to try to get international organizations and embassies involved in order to pressure General Security to stop this violation,” said Roula Hamati, research and advocacy officer at Insan Association. “Currently, we are managing appeals on a case-by-case basis for the people who were denied residency.”


Fakih believes the directive will lead to increased illegal migrant residency in Lebanon. Asked about this possibility, Brigadier Obeid replied: “This can never be an option. Things don’t go the way they want, but rather the way we want. We will make sure to keep the situation under control.”


Fakih is also convinced that the directive is directly related to the Syrian refugee crisis. “The Lebanese authorities are trying hard to limit the residency renewal of Syrian refugees and pushing them to leave the country.”


Myra Abdallah tweets @myraabdallah

The directive was not made public. (Image via humanrights-lb.blogspot.com)

Migrant workers from categories 2 and 3 are not allowed to bring their families with them, but the law does not forbid them to have children in Lebanon."