BEIRUT: Less than two weeks before the expiry of his six-year tenure, President Michel Sleiman plans to issue a decree granting Lebanese citizenship to about 700 people of various nationalities, including unregistered Lebanese, political sources said Wednesday.
The decree must still be signed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk.
Among those to be granted Lebanese citizenship are about 145 Syrians and 82 Palestinians, in addition to 46 stateless people and 16 others whose nationality cases are still being considered, a political source told The Daily Star.
The decree also includes 100 Americans, 54 French citizens, 30 Canadians, 20 Jordanians, 22 Britons, 48 Iraqis and 16 Egyptian families, and will also benefit five Saudis, 12 Brazilians, Mexican families and people from Tunisia, India, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Austria, Ukraine and the Philippines, the source said.
The Saudis to be granted Lebanese citizenship are the Pharaon and Abu Khadra families.
Sleiman has already issued at least two decrees granting Lebanese citizenship to people of various nationalities. However, questions were raised about the identities of some of the individuals who were included.
Parliament is still debating a new citizenship draft law, in addition to another bill to grant citizenship to Lebanese expatriates.
Lebanese law forbids granting citizenship to stateless people and those whose nationality cases are being studied.
Granting Lebanese citizenship to Palestinians runs contrary to the Lebanese Constitution, which forbids naturalization and resettlement of Palestinians in Lebanon. Lebanon hosts more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees who do not have Lebanese citizenship.
Sleiman’s decision to sign the citizenship decree comes a day after a lack of quorum prevented the Joint Parliamentary Committees from examining a draft law that would allow the paternal grandchildren of Lebanese to apply for citizenship.
MP Neamatallah Abi Nasr from MP Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc said a consensus had not yet been reached over the bill.
“There is still a lengthy debate over the law, and it seems there is no political decision yet to grant expatriates their right to the Lebanese nationality,” Abi Nasr told The Daily Star.
Lawmakers from various blocs held two-hour talks over the bill, but lost the quorum after many of them left the meeting.
Under the current law, expatriates of Lebanese descent can only receive citizenship from their father. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said earlier this month that he had received assurances from both Speaker Nabih Berri and the Future Movement that they would back the draft law.
In 2011, former Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet approved a draft law allowing people of Lebanese descent who were born abroad and only have the citizenship of the country of their birth to apply for Lebanese citizenship as well.
The law sparked criticism from women’s rights activists. The current Lebanese law does not allow women to pass on citizenship to their spouse or children.
A local women’s rights gathering "My Nationality is a Right for me and My Family" issued a statement Monday saying they were against the law and that the priority should be given to a bill allowing Lebanese women to pass their nationality to their children.
This article was amended on Thursday, May 15 2014
This article was amended on May 15, 2014. The original article incorrectly stated that the Kafa campaign opposed the citizenship law. In fact, “My Nationality is a Right for me and for my Family” is the campaign that opposes the law and issued a statement on the issue earlier this week.