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Beirut Blast Solidarity Tainted with Racism

Thursday, 13 August, 2020

More than a week after the explosion that shook our city, we are still in shock and in mourning. Our hearts go out to the families of those who lost their lives and livelihoods in this indiscriminate massacre of Beirut and its residents. 

The political class bears the full responsibility for this catastrophe, the ones that preceded it and the ones that are unfortunately yet to follow. 

To this day, the official tally of the deceased and the missing remains incomplete, excluding primarily people of non-Lebanese origin. This is not an accident. Migrant workers and refugees are systematically dehumanized and marginalized in Lebanon, in life as in death. 

We thank those who managed to compile this list of the deceased of Syrian origin and we deeply regret that we only managed to obtain the names of 12 of the deceased migrant workers and Palestinians, while we know of at least 3 additional deaths within the Bangladeshi community. Rest in power Hailrmaryam Demise Reta, Etetu Dechassa Tulu, Baby-Linn Serohijos, Perlita Mendoza, Arlet Meglangit, Jolbab Sajed Ali, Mehdy Hassan Rami, Mizan (last name unknown), Rezol Mounir Sekder, Mohamad Dgheim, Firas Dahwish, Ali Al Sawwan. 

While some victims of this massacre have been able to repair their homes, treat their wounds, and bury their dead, others are still struggling. Some activists reported on Facebook that a Syrian family was unable to bury their daughter. And although many relief efforts have sprung up in the past week, reports from volunteers on the ground indicate that certain relief efforts, organized by political parties, NGOs, and unaffiliated individual initiatives, are deliberately excluding non-Lebanese people. Witnesses also reported violence against Syrians by volunteers in different locations and the Internal Security Forces asking volunteers for their IDs while they were cleaning the rubble.

What many are referring to as an exemplary show of solidarity has been tainted by deeply entrenched racism and clientelism.

With the declaration of the military state of emergency which will be implemented over the next 15 days, the harm inflicted on migrant workers forcibly removed from the streets will be incalculable. Where will they go? Hundreds of migrant workers have been dumped by their employers in the past few months, forcing them into homelessness. Others have been illegally evicted for failing to pay rent. And now many are living among the rubble, holding on to walls that no longer exist. 

Lebanon was never safe for migrant workers and is even less so today. Migrant workers require urgent assistance in finding shelter, repairing homes, paying rent, and securing food and basic necessities. But most of all, migrant workers just want to go home.

We fully stand behind this now almost-unanimous demand among the migrant communities and are sparing no effort to make this happen. Evacuate migrant workers from Lebanon now. Anywhere is safer than here.

Background

On August 4 2020, a massive explosion hit Lebanon’s capital that was caused by a blast of 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port. The explosion caused the death of more than 150 people, thousands of injuries and disappearances, and a great degree of damage in houses and buildings all over the city, making hundreds of thousands of families and individuals homeless.

Before the explosion, migrant workers had been demanding to be evacuated from Lebanon and to go back home. Today, their families are worried about their safety in a country that not only dehumanizes them but also does not consider their security and survival an urgent priority in a constantly changing situation in terms of coronavirus lockdown and official security protocols.