On Monday 21 December 2020, the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) held a joint webinar on migrants and refugees in Lebanon.
In the webinar, the organizations addressed the situation of migrant workers and refugees in Lebanon, including their legal and social status and the violations to which they are exposed.
The ICJ and CLDH called on the Lebanese authorities to adopt and enforce just, fair and effective legal and policy frameworks to address the entry and stay of refugees and migrants in Lebanon, and ensure the protection of their human rights in full compliance with Lebanon’s obligations under international law, particularly their non-refoulement obligations.
The ICJ launched its recent report "Unrecognized and Unprotected: The Treatment of Refugees and Migrants in Lebanon" which undertakes an assessment of the Lebanese legal framework governing the treatment of migrants and refugees in the country, including their entry and stay. The report concludes that the legal and policy gaps, together with the executive’s excessive and unchecked powers in shaping and implementing migration-related policies, have led to serious violations to refugees’ and migrants’ human rights in Lebanon.
The ICJ presented the findings and key recommendations of its report, which included urging the Lebanese government to ensure that no individual is transferred to a country where he or she faces a real risk of persecution or other forms of serious harm, such as torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Procedural obstacles preventing migrant workers and refugees from accessing justice, such as lacking residency papers, were examined by CLDH.
The webinar, facilitated by CLDH’s Executive Director Fadel Fakih, commenced with opening remarks from Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, and Wadih Al-Asmar, President of CLDH. Attendees included civil society, lawyers, and members of the Lebanese Bar association.
Underscoring that Lebanon is obligated to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers despite not being a State party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, as these rights are guaranteed by other international conventions ratified by Lebanon including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), Al-Asmar called on the Lebanese State to abandon its repressive security approach towards refugee populations, and to abolish the exploitative Kafala sponsorship system.
Benarbia addressed how normative gaps, together with restrictive provisions of the 1962 Law of Entry and Exit, including those criminalizing “irregular entry,” undermine the right of refugees to an individual examination of their asylum claim, their right to liberty and security of person, and their right to an effective legal remedy for human rights violations. He pointed out that laws and policies impacting on migrants and refugees should be adopted and implemented by legally constituted civilian authorities, subject to legislative oversight and judicial review.
CLDH members Hasna Abdul Reda and Rabih Keyrouz focused on the obstacles that continue to impede migrant workers and refugees from accessing justice in Lebanon. CLDH Programme Manager, Josiane Noun, presented CLDH’s Legal Aid Programme and support services that the organization has made available to migrant workers and refugees.
Kouakou Adjo Delphine, representing the Alliance of Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon, discussed the challenges domestic migrants face in accessing justice for human rights violations.
The conference concluded with an open discussion between panelists and participants where possible solutions to enhance the protection afforded to migrant workers and refugees in Lebanon were discussed.