The positions and views carried recently in the media on former Minister Charbel Nahhas’ decision to put in place a mechanism for granting work permits to Palestinian wage-earners reveal apprehensions that are totally unfounded.
The decision, signed by Nahhas on his last day as labor minister on Feb. 27 and officially registered in the rosters of the Interior and Municipalities Ministry, has evoked fears of “Palestinian settlement and militia-like practices.”
We should put matters in their right perspective: The aforementioned decision, which was long awaited, is no more than a mechanism for implementing the amended article 59 of the Labor Law which the Lebanese Parliament approved in August 2010, becoming Law 129 promulgated during the term of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in which Butros Harb was the labor minister.
It should be noted that Decision 79/1 dated 2005 of Labor Minister Trad Hamadeh had exempted Palestinian refugees born on Lebanese territory and officially registered by the Interior Ministry, in its Article 2 from the conditions applied to foreigners. This exemption was made definitive by subsequent decisions, including Decision 94/1 dated 2008 by Labor Minister Mohammad Fneish, and Decision 10/1 dated 2010 by Labor Minister Butros Harb.
Accordingly, fears of settlement of Palestinians refugees as a consequence of the decision of Nahhas to implementthe mechanism for Palestinian wage-earners who are officially and duly registered are unfounded and groundless.
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are part of the manpower working here. Palestinian refugees work mostly in the “informal” labor market. Consequently, when their status is regulated, this will not lead to the entry of large numbers of Palestinian refugees into the labor market. Rather it will regulate their status in Lebanon, no more than that.
We should keep in mind that Palestinian refugees who are registered reside in Lebanon legally, until their return to Palestine. Unlike foreign labor arriving from abroad to work in Lebanon, they earn and spend their income in Lebanon, thereby supporting the Lebanese economy. Most Palestinian families have one member working in Lebanon in construction, agriculture or are self-employed. In addition are those who are employed by U.N. organizations, nongovernmental organizations and within the camps that are crowded with refugees.
Hence, Nahhas’ decision, if implemented, only leads to facilitating administrative measures for officially registered Palestine refugees to obtain a work permit. It does not exceed what is permitted by the text of the Labor Law amended in August 2010 and by the above-mentioned decisions, and does not in any way lead to the settlement of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
Ambassador Samir Khoury Chairman, Palestine Refugee Labor Committee in Lebanon.