American basketball player Omari Spellman gets Lebanese citizenship
An American basketball player was granted Lebanese nationality earlier this week, in time for him to play for Lebanon’s national team at the Basketball World Cup finals this summer - to consternation from some.
Lebanon's Council of Ministers granted Ohio native Omari Spellman honorary citizenship on Tuesday, months after the Lebanese Basketball Federation secured a deal to have him play for the national team.
The 25-year-old currently plays in the Korean Basketball League, after short stints in the NBA for teams including Golden State Warriors and the New York Knicks.
The addition of Spellman will likely be a boost to an already strong Lebanese team, who put in an impressive performance at the Asia Cup last year to make the tournament's final.
But the decision has also fuelled further criticism of Lebanese nationality law, which does not grant citizenship to Lebanese women's foreign spouses or any children they may have together.
Lack of citizenship hinders access to work, education, social services, and health care, and leaves some children at risk of statelessness, Human Rights Watch said.
The French mandate-era nationality law "has been causing untold hardship for more than 90 years with no justification", HRW said in 2018.
Naturalisation is normally signed off on by the Lebanese Presidency - but the president's seat has been vacant since October when Michel Aoun formally left the position.