BEIRUT, Lebanon — A couple of hundred Palestinian refugees are protesting in the streets of Beirut against Lebanon’s labor ministry cracking down on businesses employing foreign workers without a permit. They and dozens of demonstrators in Palestinian refugee camps in the capital, as well as the south and east of the country, denounce the move as “unfair.”
Last month, the ministry gave companies a one-month deadline to acquire the necessary work permits. After the grace period expired last week, it started inspections, closing down non-compliant establishments and issuing others with warnings.
Critics say the measure essentially targets Syrians who have fled the war next door, but Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon for many decades, most of them born in the country, also fear they will be hit.
Labour Minister Camille Abousleiman denied the inspections had overwhelmingly affected Palestinians. “Of the 550 violations registered since last Wednesday, only two concerned large companies owned by Palestinians,” he says. “The Palestinian reaction is incomprehensible.”
The Palestinian ambassador in Beirut, Ashraf Dabbour, on Monday called on the Lebanese government to exempt Palestinians from these measures. The Palestinian terror group Hamas called for “the immediate end to all closures.”
Around 174,000 Palestinian refugees live in 12 camps across the country, a one-off government census said in 2017. In 2010, Lebanon’s parliament revoked a ban that had barred them from dozens of professions for years, restricting them to jobs in fields such as construction and farming. But Palestinians are still not permitted to work in professions reserved for Lebanese citizens such as medicine, law, the army, and police.