BEIRUT: Lebanon’s General Security is disrupting migrant workers' right to family life with a recently issued directive that restricts the renewal of residency permits. It has resulted in the deportation of some migrants’ children and their mothers, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
“A recent decision by General Security, Lebanon’s security agency in charge of foreigners’ entry and residency, to deny residency permit renewals for a number of low-wage migrants who have had children in Lebanon and for their children disproportionately interferes with the right to family life,” HRW said in a joint statement with other nongovernmental organizations.
Since May of this year, the group said that nearly a dozen female migrant workers reported to human rights groups that General Security turned down their request to renew their residency papers. Some were reportedly told that they were not allowed to have children while working in Lebanon and given a short period of time to leave.
“In some cases, they said, they were given as little as 48 hours.”
“Under General Security’s new directive some families are being torn apart while others are apparently being denied their livelihoods simply because they’ve had children in Lebanon,” said Nadim Houry, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at HRW.
“The Lebanese authorities have not given any justification for this new policy and should immediately revoke this directive as it interferes with the right to family life.”
Lebanese residency regulations stipulate that certain categories of low-wage migrants, particularly domestic workers, are not allowed to sponsor residency for their spouses or children.
The group said that in the past, children of migrants born in Lebanon were able to apply for a year-long residency up until age four and then enroll in school.
According to the organization, all migrant workers interviewed who were affected by the decision so far appear to be low-paid female workers in industries such as sanitation, agriculture and domestic work.
According to the statement, General Security sources have told nongovernmental groups that the agency “has a new directive regarding the renewal of residency permits for Lebanon-born children of low-wage migrants and their migrant parents.”
“Activists say the directive was apparently adopted in January 2014, but has been applied more stringently since May and has resulted in the expulsion of some family members of migrant workers.”
HRW cited a case of Ghanaian woman who was separated from her 10-year-old son when General Security refused to renew his residency permit even though he was enrolled at school.
Fearing for her job in Lebanon, the woman sent her child back to Ghana alone.
In another case, General Security issued deportation notices for a Lebanon-born 13-year-old Sri Lankan boy and his mother in June, even though the boy was enrolled in school. His father, also from Sri Lanka, was not expelled from Lebanon.
“The migrants affected told the organizations that their children have few or no ties to their home country and many do not speak their parents’ native tongue, making the potential for successful integration in schools back home very difficult.”
Many of these migrants hail from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ghana, South Sudan and Madagascar.
HRW said the new directive contravenes Lebanon’s international human rights obligations under the human rights treaties to which it is party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Under these treaties, Lebanon should avoid “disproportionate interference with the right to family life,” and grant the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to begin a family.
“The Lebanese government should comply with its international obligations by ensuring that General Security considers the family interests involved before rejecting the renewal of residency for workers or their children or considering their expulsion.”
“The government should also ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families to safeguard the rights of migrants in Lebanon.”