Spotlight: Palestinian refugees in Lebanon lament lost job opportunities

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-18 17:30:44|Editor: Yurou
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Palestinian refugees take part in a protest in Beirut, Lebanon, on July 16, 2019. A large number of Palestinians in Beirut held protests against an initiative from Lebanese Labor Minister in early June that aims to regulate foreign workers in Lebanon. (Xinhua/Bilal Jawich)

by Dana Halawi

BEIRUT, July 18 (Xinhua) -- Years back, Ghassan Deaibes, a Palestinian refugee born in Lebanon, worked as a senior architect for a Belgian contracting company in charge of constructing Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.

Unfortunately, Deaibes had to return to Lebanon after the 2008 financial crisis broke out as demand for his speciality declined in Dubai.

He was not alone. Thousands more who used to work in Dubai had to leave because of the global financial crisis that impacted thousands of operations in the largest city of the United Arab Emirates.

The 59-year-old architect now works in a tiny market in a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, capital of Lebanon, since as a Palestinian, he is not allowed to work in the field of his speciality in Lebanon.

"My only sin is that I am Palestinian although I was born in Lebanon and lived the biggest part of my life in this country," Deaibes told Xinhua.

According to Human Rights Watch, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in "appalling social and economic conditions." They labor under legal restrictions that bar them from employment in at least 25 professions, "including law, medicine, and engineering."

Palestinian refugees have on many occasions asked the Lebanese government for more rights to live a normal and decent life in Lebanon, including the right to use their skills and talents.

An official at the labor ministry told Xinhua that such a demand should be submitted by the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee to the ministries concerned in Lebanon for detailed assessment.

"We are trying to help Palestinian refugees as much as we can but such a demand should be well studied and the decision must be taken officially by ministries," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The latest move by Palestinians in their demand for laws that allow them to work in all sectors without limitations is a big demonstration held on Wednesday in Beirut.

Khaled Soueid, a Palestinian refugee who works in a non- governmental organization in the southern Lebanese city of Saida, said protesters want to work in all fields without restrictions since they were born in Lebanon and they have lived their entire life in the country.

The protest comes after an initiative from Labor Minister Camille Abousleiman in early June that aims to regulate foreign workers in Lebanon.

While Palestinians in Lebanon strongly expressed their discontent with the new measure, Abousleiman said he does not understand the exaggerated reactions among refugees.

"Our aim is to apply the labor law on all nationalities working in the country. I cannot apply the law on Lebanese or Syrians and disregard other nationalities," he said.

However, Soueid said work permits should be requested from foreigners and not from Palestinians who were born and lived their entire lives in Lebanon.

Kamal Hamdan, an independent economist, told Xinhua that foreign workers should certainly be regulated in Lebanon by issuing work permits in a bid to create balanced competition among Lebanese and foreign workers.

According to a study by the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee in 2017, there were 174,422 registered Palestinians in Lebanon.

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