BEIRUT: A family of seven, including a 5-year-old girl, faces deportation to separate countries for lacking residency papers, human rights groups have warned. The father, a Sudanese national, is to be deported to Sudan with his five children, he has told the Anti-Racism Movement. Meanwhile, the mother faces deportation to her home country of Sri Lanka.
Both parents have signaled to human rights groups that they have compelling reasons not to return to their home countries, including fears of violence and imprisonment.
“Deportation could be imminent but we are hoping our advocacy will lead to release,” Lama Fakih, Human Rights Watch’s acting regional director, told The Daily Star.
As the case awaits resolution, the family is being held in two separate facilities, breaking the principle of family unity and displaying a “chilling disregard for [the children’s] rights,” Human Rights Watch said in a press release Thursday.
General Security, the organization responsible for entry to and exit from Lebanon, was unable to comment in time for publication.
The eldest child, who is 18 years old, was detained in February for his irregular residency status.
In July, the rest of the family was detained, including a 5-year-old girl, who is named Beirut because of her parents’ attachment to the city.
The Sudanese father is being held near Adlieh along with three sons, one of whom is 13. Meanwhile, their mother and the two youngest children are waiting separately in a shelter run by Caritas Lebanon.
“There are two principal concerns. ... Firstly, children should never be detained by themselves or with parents,” Fakih said, since the detention of minors in any form can lead to profound “short- and long-term psychological impacts.”
Detaining minors in an adult environment is particularly damaging, according to Fakih.
“One of the children [in Adlieh] is 13 years old. Minor children should not be held with adults. Period. Unfortunately, we have documented other cases where this has happened,” she said.
“Concerns even extend to [the Caritas] shelter environment,” Fakih said, pointing out that it, too, was a detention center, since the mother and her children were not allowed to leave.
“Less harmful alternatives” could be used, which do not separate the children from their parents while the family’s case is being considered, HRW said in its statement.
One such option is to free the family and have them report regularly to the authorities.
Both parents risk violence and persecution in their home countries, the group says.
The family’s father moved from Sudan to Lebanon in 1995 to avoid military service, after two of his brothers were killed in the Sudanese civil war. He was deported to Sudan in 1998, arrested and only released from prison when his father paid a bribe. He returned to Lebanon and has remained in the country since.
The mother, a Sri Lankan former domestic worker, escaped an abusive Lebanese employer around 20 years ago, and thus lost her migration status.
She told Amnesty International that her employer beat her, confiscated her passport and withheld her wages for a year.
“General Security should free the family, unless specific and compelling reasons make restrictions to the liberty of the parents necessary,” HRW’s statement advised.
“Crucially, in line with the principles of family unity and respect for the child’s best interests, the family should not be separated by being deported to different countries,” the group added.