Palestinians in Gaza demonstrate in solidarity with Lebanon after the Beirut port explosion last August (Photo by Mohammed ABED / AFP)

The decision of the Lebanese Minister of Labor, Mustafa Bayram, regarding the professions that should be restricted to the Lebanese, sparked widespread controversy, after excluding in the second article of the decision the Palestinians born on Lebanese lands and officially registered in the records of the Lebanese Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, and the foreigner whose mother is Lebanese or married to a Lebanese woman, and those born in Lebanon who are holders of the Maktoum Registration Card.

The circle of professions that Palestinians are prohibited from practicing has expanded over the years, reaching 73 professions, including medicine, pharmacy, hospital owners, travel agencies, newspaper editor-in-chief, engineering, law, and others. In the professions they are allowed to practice, they are required to obtain a work permit. The Palestinian benefits from end-of-service indemnity, but does not benefit from health benefits and family compensation, even though he pays all social security fees owed by him.

Bayram Resolution 96/1 issued on November 25, 2021, (published in the Official Gazette on December 9, 2021), allowed Palestinians to work in free professions, but with priority for the Lebanese, as the minister stressed in his press conference today, explaining that Palestinian refugees have priority over Foreigners, not the Lebanese.


Refusal and accusations

According to a statement issued by the Lebanese Ministry of Labor, “the decision was taken based on the requirements of the public interest and taking into account the economic conditions that necessitated a review of the list of professions whose practice must be restricted to Lebanese.”

But this decision, according to the head of the “Free Patriotic Movement”, Gebran Bassil, “contradicts the labor law and the constitution, and it is disguised and rejected,” calling on “the unions to break it before the State Consultative Council, and the Lebanese not to abide by it.”

And he added, in a tweet on Twitter, “Do not go through such a story! We will not allow the Lebanese to paralyze their jobs in these circumstances.”

In a call with The Eastern Herald, a member of the Strong Lebanon bloc, Eddy Maalouf, said, “How can we allow thousands of foreign workers to be crowded into the labor market with the rampant unemployment, especially since some of them receive aid from the United Nations, whether they are displaced Syrians or Palestinians in Lebanon?” When are we not finished yet with the completion of the financing card for the Lebanese?”

Maalouf stressed, “We live in a crisis and we were among the first to warn against the issue of not controlling the Syrian exodus. He accused us of racism, and for a long time, we have been calling for the implementation of Resolution 194 related to the return of Palestinian refugees. Moreover, Lebanon is facing a very severe economic crisis, so the decision of Perm is unacceptable.” We hope the government withdraws it.”

The Kataeb Party also considered, in a statement, that the decision “hides malicious intentions that begin with settlement and do not end with changing the face of Lebanon,” considering that “opening the door for refugees in Lebanon to practice dozens of professions is an attack on the right of the Lebanese, and a consolidation of their permanent presence in Lebanon while the Lebanese emigrate, It will contribute to blocking the road for those who remained in his country to find an opportunity in jobs that were until today reserved for them by law, and will also contribute to reducing the level of salaries in the mentioned professions in line with the supply and demand market. portable that will lead to his bankruptcy, and he is hardly enough for the Lebanese.”

In the same context, the former Minister of Labor, Sejaan Azzi, (affiliated with the Kataeb Party), considered that “the decision issued by the Minister of Labor, Bayram, contradicts the decision he issued in 2015.”

He added, in a tweet on Twitter, that “the new decision increases the unemployment of the Lebanese (40%) and opens the doors to settlement and naturalization. His Excellency allowed Palestinian refugees and those without restrictions to work in all fields without any exceptions, and did not prevent the work of displaced Syrians.”

During his press conference today, Bayram responded to his critics by saying that “90% of those who criticized us did not read the decision, and whoever knows the law sees how you protected the Lebanese worker if it becomes forbidden for the foreigner to work in Lebanon without obtaining an exception…”.

And he added, “We also worked on detailing professions to protect the Lebanese in all sectors,” noting that “the recent decision, which sparked controversy, came at this time because the Lebanese law requires the Minister of Labor to issue it in December of each year.”

He also pointed out that the issue of Palestinian labor took a small place in the law. He said, “I want to protect Lebanon’s classification and protect the foreign workers for not being exploited for this. We set the standard for the standard employment contract and before it was approved, we sent it to the State Consultative Council, and we are still waiting for the council’s position, and I did not violate the law, and the Lebanese worker first, with all due respect to everyone who is in Lebanon.”

Positive step..but

The Palestinian factions in Lebanon praised the Lebanese Minister of Labor’s move, “which expanded the margin of employment opportunity for the Palestinian worker.”

She said, “We, in the leadership of the coalition and our Palestinian people, appreciate this important step, and we consider it a step in the right direction and at the right time, in light of the stifling economic and living crisis that our people in Lebanon are experiencing.”

In a contact with The Eastern Herald, the Secretary of the Liberation Organization and Fatah factions in Beirut, Brigadier Samir Abu Afash, thanked the “Minister of Labor and the Lebanese Government.” And whether the Palestinian factions were placed in the atmosphere of the decision before it was issued, Abu Afash replied: “No, but as usual, we visited all the ministers when forming the government and put forward demands for their minimum limits, including the Palestinian right to work.”

The problem, in Abu Afash’s opinion, is that “these decisions are ministerial and not a law to rely on in the future. They are not binding on the minister who comes after Bayram,” and this was stressed by the Palestinian writer and human rights activist, Anis Mohsen.

Mohsen said: “The decision is positive, as it gives Palestinians the possibility to enter the labor market, which was legally forbidden to them, temporarily and not permanently, as any upcoming minister can cancel it with a new decision, and here lies its negative, and for this approach to be permanent and binding, a law must be issued by the Council of Ministers. Representatives”.

Political, not economic attack

Regarding the correction to the decision, Mohsen commented, in connection with The Eastern Herald, that “political action is necessary, that is, to win the public, and everyone knows that the Palestinian, when given the choice between settlement and travel abroad, will choose the second option.”

He added, “Throughout the past period, the Palestinian has been a scarecrow for the Lebanese economy, knowing that he has never been dependent on it since 1948 until now. Rather, he has been a helper to it, whether through the hard currency that Palestinian workers send abroad to the rest of their families in Lebanon, in addition to what they spend.” The United Nations agency in Lebanon in hard currency or what the Palestine Liberation Organization used to spend during its existence, as it was a lever for the Lebanese economy, and all Palestinian factions are currently paying its members in hard currency, hence the attack on the decision is a political issue, not an economic one.

Moral Decision

“There are no statistics on the unemployment rate among Palestinian refugees, but estimates indicate,” Mohsen said, that it “exceeds 60 percent.”

As for whether Lebanon is currently benefiting from Minister Bayram’s decision, Mohsen replied, “It depends on the number of Palestinian refugees in the labor market. 174,000 Palestinian refugees are in Lebanon, and the number of Palestinian workers does not exceed 51,000…”

He added, “But according to my estimation, the number does not exceed 30 to 35 thousand, and that those who can work in the liberal professions do not exceed 3000 to 5000 people, knowing that most of the engineers who can benefit from this decision are practically outside Lebanon, as well as the number of doctors is few and a portion Some of them work for the Red Crescent Society.

Mohsen stressed that “the Palestinian labor that is able to enter the labor market is the least foreign labor present in Lebanon, and that the Palestinian worker when he works is spent inside Lebanon and does not send his money abroad, but on the contrary brings him money from there.”

This is what Brigadier General Abu Afash pointed out by saying, “The Palestinians do not drain the Lebanese treasury, but rather everything that reaches them from abroad they spend in Lebanon, unlike other workers, we participate in running the economic wheel.”

But will the unions allow the Palestinian refugee to work? Mohsen doubted this and explained that, “For example, the Lebanese doctor is required to take the Colloquium exam. Will it open the way for Palestinian graduates in medicine to take this exam, and if a new course will open when?” From here he considered that “the decision is morally good, but In practice, it would be of little use.

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