Day three of anti-Syrian labor protests in Lebanon
Written by Malek

Image used for illustrative purpose only.

Fans of Lebanon cheer for their team during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Qatar in Doha


BEIRUT: East Lebanon residents protested for the third day in a row Sunday against Syrian labor in the country, claiming it is undercutting their business. State media reported that residents of the Zahle district town of Ali al-Nahri called for “decisive decisions” to resolve what they called “the overexpansion of Syrian labor” that jeopardizes the Lebanese. Protesters called on officials to resolve the “crisis of [hosting] Syrian refugees who admit they do not want to return to their country even after the Syrian crisis ends.” Thousands of Syrians have fled the war since 2011, with 1.01 million Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon with U.N. humanitarian agency UNHCR, though Lebanese officials estimate the number to be upward of 1.5 million. There is little documented evidence that large numbers of Syrians do not wish to go home if a political agreement is made to end fighting and allow their return. Several Lebanese officials have called for the return of refugees to safe zones in Syria. “[In Lebanon] their food is guaranteed, they get free health care and there is a boom in donations,” one protester said, adding that “this is the reason they are undercutting [Lebanese] businesses.”

In addition to the refugees, there are many Syrians who are legal residents and allowed to work according to a predefined list of professions issued by the Labor Ministry. Protesters claimed that most businesses in the towns of the central Bekaa Valley “belong to Syrians, and it seems that there is no longer room for us in our own country.” A number of Lebanese towns, including the Mount Lebanon town of Hadath, have closed businesses owned by Syrian refugees, pursuant to Labor Ministry decrees. Others have enforced curfews, forcing Syrians to remain indoors after nightfall.

Lebanese authorities have been pushing for tighter regulations on Syrian laborers, warning that the influx of workers could lead to higher rates of unemployment among Lebanese. International organizations have attempted to measure the effect and extent of local-worker displacement by foreign labor since the start of the Syria crisis, concluding that there has been minimal impact where measurement was possible.

But overall, the Lebanese economy and infrastructure has borne a heavy burden due to the refugee influx and the fallout from the 6-year-old war.

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