BEIRUT: Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud vowed Thursday to continue a crackdown on any beach club employing racist entrance policies, while pledging that Lebanon would now adhere to the guidelines of the Global Code of Ethics of Tourism. He said the move was part of a policy to clean up the “unpleasant image of Lebanon” which he said has arisen.
Earlier this month, in a widely circulated video filmed by a local NGO, 10 different resorts refused entrance to a migrant domestic worker, despite a communiqué issued by the Tourism Ministry in April which stipulated that “equal treatment is to be provided to all customers without discrimination based on race, nationality or disability,” and that “suitable legal measures” would be taken against violations.
This move followed similar such incidents of racist door policies over previous summers. Before the latest video release, the Anti-Racism Movement had last month already filmed an Ethiopian woman being turned away from the St. George beach club in Beirut. The venue issued an apology and said it had been a mistake.
Speaking at a news conference held at the ministry, Abboud said that an image of Lebanon had emerged,which depicts the country as “racist in our dealings with the patrons of swimming pools and tourist establishments and this reflects negatively on Lebanon’s image as a tourist destination internationally and weakens its standing in terms of human rights.”
“The actions of individuals at some tourist establishments should not distort or change Lebanon’s image.”
Abboud announced the country’s full adherence to the Global Code of Ethics of Tourism, and said he would inform the World Tourism Organization and Parliament’s Human Rights Committee that the ministry will be “harsh in implementing the objectives of the code,” emphasizing Articles 2 and 8 of the code, which relate to individual rights and equality.
He pledged that the ministry would shut down any venue which failed to comply with the code after being issued with a warning and a citation, but also called upon the public and civil society to cooperate by using the ministry hotline (1735) to voice complaints about violations.
Also Thursday the minister announced the launch of a Tourism Ministry office at the Masnaa border crossing in the Bekaa. Last week saw up to 30,000 Syrian refugees cross into Lebanon, following an intensification of violence in Damascus.
Last week’s arrivals are thought to be largely middle-class, and have mostly moved to Beirut and other cities, often renting apartments or staying in hotels. There are already tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in the country, mostly living with host families or in abandoned buildings which have been renovated by various nongovernmental organizations.
Baalbek-Hermel MP Marwan Fares, and a member of Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, told the news conference that all discrimination against displaced Syrians fleeing to Lebanon was unacceptable, citing cases where recent arrivals have been charged inflated prices for accommodation.
While Abboud said his ministry had yet to receive any such complaints, he added that the new office at Masnaa would help new arrivals, specifically in helping direct them to furnished apartments and hotels across the country.