BEIRUT: MP Akram Shehayeb Wednesday accused Labor Minister Salim Jreissati of assisting the Syrian Embassy in collecting information about its nationals in Lebanon, saying that the mission has become a “nest for intelligence.”
“The Labor Ministry in Lebanon, according to an official letter signed by Salim Jreissati numbered 1/51 dated 11/2/2012, asks the Department of Syrian Labor Affairs in the Ministry to attach to Syrian workers’ papers an affidavit from the Syrian Embassy in Lebanon confirming the validity of the personal documents presented by the workers,” Shehayeb told reporters in Parliament.
A few hours after his comments, Jreissati slammed Shehayeb’s “tense” speech, saying “he has just steeped out the obedience of his masters, the Syrian intelligence personnel, which the labor minister said has never had any contact with.”
The minister explained that the ministry’s measures were taken after receiving a letter from the defense ministry warning that some Syrians are using fake IDs to commit crimes and violations in Lebanon.
“It turned out that some Syrians arrested by Lebanese authorities have been using fake IDs that facilitate moving around within Lebanese territory and use that to carry out terrorist acts in Lebanon, most recently the murder of priest Elie Makdissi,” said the letter signed by the labor ministry numbered 4082 g / p / and dated 24/10/2012.
According to the letter, the defense ministry asked the labor ministry to inspect and monitor the whereabouts of the displaced so that criminals would not exploit the status of refugees to carry out suspicious acts.
According to Shehayeb, the ministry has no justification for such a measure as Syrian workers enter Lebanon via legal border crossings where their documents are audited before they are allowed entry.
“Along with the humanitarian tragedy that Syrians suffer from in Lebanon, there is an additional tragedy of another kind related to their security and life,” the lawmaker, a member of MP Walid Jumblatt’s bloc, said.
Shehayeb questioned whether such a measure had been implemented in the past, as well as reasons behind the issuing of such a letter at a time when rebels have been fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime for over a year.
“It is unacceptable for the Labor Ministry to transform itself into a tool for an ambassador or the embassy that has become to resemble ... the Beau Ravage Hotel,” Shehayeb said, referring to the former residence of late Syrian Intelligence chief Rustom Ghazaleh in Lebanon.
The MP also accused some Lebanese political parties of aiding the Syrian Embassy which he said interrogated workers in the country to expose their political affiliation.
“Months ago, Lebanese political parties allied with the regime sorted through all information about the workers with the aim of collecting security and political information and handed it over to the embassy or directly to Syrian security agencies,” he said.
“In the embassy, the Syrian citizen is interrogated for a security and intelligence purpose in a dark room about all aspects of their lives until they reach the main point: are you with the regime or against it?” Shehayeb added.
He also said that an officer interrogates the worker “in a small room posing security questions unrelated to the Labor Ministry or work permits.”
“It is not right for the embassy in Lebanon; a country of freedom and democracy...to transform into a nest of intelligence,” the MP said.
Shehayeb, whose bloc has been one of Assad’s harshest critics, also asked the government to question the labor minister about the issue.
“We ask and hope of the government that it will inquire about the issue with the labor minister before we ask the government itself because the embassy and the ambassador are carrying out their own security work of abductions, detention, and inciting to kill. But for how long?” he said.