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Lebanon: Migrant Workers’ Children Expelled

Wednesday, 3 September, 2014

For Immediate Release

Lebanon: Migrant Workers’ Children Expelled

Directive Tearing
Families Apart

(Beirut, September 3, 2014) – Lebanon is deporting
locally born children of migrant workers and in some cases their mothers, nine
nongovernmental organizations working in Lebanon said today. A recent decision
by General Security, Lebanon’s security agency in charge of foreigners’ entry
and residency, to deny residency permit renewals for a number of low-wage
migrants who have had children in Lebanon and for their children
disproportionately interferes with the right to family life.

Since May 2014, nearly a dozen female migrant workers, many of them
longstanding residents of Lebanon, reported to human rights groups that when
they went to General Security to renew residency papers for themselves and
their children, they were turned down. Some were told they were not allowed to
have children in Lebanon and given a short period of time to leave the country.
In some cases, they said, they were given as little as 48 hours.

“Under General Security’s new directive some families are being
torn apart while others are apparently being denied their livelihoods simply
because they’ve had children in Lebanon,” said a
spokesperson for the organizations. “The Lebanese authorities have not given
any justification for this new policy and should immediately revoke this
directive as it interferes with the right to family life.”

Under Lebanese residency regulations, certain categories of low-wage
migrants, particularly domestic workers, are not allowed to sponsor residency
for their spouses or children. However, in the past, Lebanon-born children of
the migrants could apply for year-long residency up until age four and then
could apply for residency if they enrolled in school.

Sources within General Security have confirmed to nongovernmental groups
that the agency has a new directive regarding the renewal of residency permits
for Lebanon-born children of low-wage migrants and their migrant parents.
Despite written requests from the nongovernmental groups to receive a copy of
the directive the agency has yet to respond. Activists say the directive was
apparently adopted in January 2014, but has been applied more stringently since
May and has resulted in the expulsion of some family members of migrant
workers.

In one case, a Ghanaian woman told the organizations she was separated
from her 10-year-old son when General Security refused to renew his residency
permit even though he was enrolled in school. She said she sent her child back
to Ghana alone so that she would not lose her residency and job in Lebanon.

In another
case, a 13-year-old Sri Lankan boy who was born in Lebanon and had lived there
all his life and his mother were issued deportation notices by General Security
in June even though the boy was enrolled in school. His father, also from Sri
Lanka, was not expelled from Lebanon.

The boy,
who is now in Sri Lanka, told the organizations:

Someone at the Lebanese
General Security said that they were not issuing visas to children anymore. We
only had two days to leave. I had had a residency permit in Lebanon since I was
born. I never lived in Sri Lanka before. My mom and I are now in Sri Lanka. My
mom has no work here and is trying to go back to Lebanon. My dad is still in
Lebanon. If she leaves, I will have to stay here and live with my cousins.

A woman
from Madagascar told the organizations that, “When my friend went to General
Security to renew her children’s residency, she was told that residencies are
for people who come here to work, not to have children.”

Most of the migrants who reported the problem have lived in Lebanon for
more than a decade. All had given birth in Lebanon since moving there to work.
None said that they previously had any problem getting residency permits for
themselves or their children.

The migrants affected told the organizations that their children have
few or no ties to their home country and many do not speak their parents’
native tongue, making the potential for successful integration in schools back
home very difficult. Many of these migrants come from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka,
the Philippines, Ghana, South Sudan, and Madagascar. It is unclear how many
families have been affected, but certain migrant community leaders reported
that the decision has affected many of their members.

Migrants who remain in the country unlawfully risk arrest and prolonged
detention before deportation and are unable to safely access public services. Migrant children are
required to have a residency permit to enroll in public schools, human rights
activists said. 

Based on research by the organizations, all migrant workers interviewed
who were affected by the decision so far appear to be women who are Category 3
and 4 workers under Lebanon’s labor regulations – low-paid workers in
industries such as sanitation, agriculture, and domestic work. Although foreign
workers in these categories are not allowed to sponsor the residency for their
spouses or children, until recently, women in these categories could extend
their residency permits to include children born in Lebanon.

Human rights lawyers told the organizations that these women would be
able to get a series of year-long residency permits without charge for children
born in Lebanon up to age four. Once the child enrolled in school at age four,
the mother could apply to extend residency to the child provided that she
remained lawfully in Lebanon and produced necessary documents verifying school
enrollment.

However, General Security’s website now states that the residency of
children studying in Lebanon whose parents are classified as Category 3 or 4
workers are subject to a case-by-case decision by General Security. The website
does not indicate upon what grounds the decision will be made. This decision,
which appears to expel migrant workers with children on the grounds that they
have started a family in Lebanon, contravenes Lebanon’s international human
rights obligations under the human rights treaties to which it is party,
including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and
the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Lebanon’s
obligations under CERD, including to non-citizens in its territory, requires it
to avoid “disproportionate interference with the right to family life.”
Similarly, Lebanon is obligated to uphold its obligations under article 23 of
the ICCPR which reaffirms the right of men and women of marriageable age to
marry and to found a family. The new directive and its implementation result in
disproportionate interference in family life, in particular the separation of
families through expulsion.

Children
have a right to, as far as possible, to be cared for by their parents, and the
right to family relations without unlawful and disproportionate interference.
The CRC requires countries to “ensure that a child shall not be separated from
his or her parents against their will, except when ... such separation is
necessary for the best interests of the child.”

In any
proceeding that could lead to the separation of children from their parents,
all interested parties must be given an opportunity to participate and make
their views known, and any separation must be subject to judicial review. The
CRC also calls on countries to deal with questions of parents or children
entering a country for the purposes of family unity “in a positive, humane, and
expeditious manner.”  Lebanon is required
under the CRC to secure the rights to all children within its jurisdiction
without “discrimination of any kind.”

The
Lebanese government should comply with its international obligations by
ensuring that General Security considers the family interests involved before
rejecting the renewal of residency for workers or their children or considering
their expulsion. The government should also ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant
Workers and Members of Their Families to safeguard the rights of migrants in
Lebanon.

“Family
life is just as important to Lebanon’s migrant workers as to anyone else in
Lebanon,” the spokesperson said. 
“General Security should reverse this directive and preserve the right
to family life for Lebanon’s migrant workers.”

Signatories:

  • Anti-Racism
    Movement (ARM)
  • Lebanese Association for Education and Training (ALEF)
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  • Insan
    Association
  • Lebanese
    Center for Human Rights (CLDH)
  • Legal Agenda
  • Migrant
    Community Center (MCC)
  • Migrant
    Workers Task Force (MWTF)
  • The Association Justice and Mercy (AJEM)

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on
Lebanon, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/lebanon

For more information, please contact:
In Beirut, Lama Fakih (English, Arabic): +961-3-900-105 (mobile); or fakihl@hrw.org.
Follow on Twitter @lamamfakih

In Beirut,
Nadim Houry (Arabic, French, English): +961-3-639-244 (mobile); or houryn@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @nadimhoury