Lebanon to open barred professions to Palestinians amid 'brain drain'

Lebanon to open barred professions to Palestinians amid 'brain drain'
Full details on the relaxation of restrictions will be given on Friday morning in a press conference at the Lebanese ministry of labour.
2 min read
09 December, 2021
The relaxed restrictions will allow Palestinians across the country to work in medical and legal professions [Getty]

Lebanon said on Wednesday it will remove a ban preventing Palestinian refugees from working in the local labour market, according to Lebanon's National News Agency (NNA), before a minister downplayed the reports.

It was inferred that Lebanese Labour Minister Mustafa Bayram relaxed restrictions on Palestinians - many born in the country - enabling them to work in trade union-regulated professions including law, engineering, and medicine, according to the news agency.

These professions were limited to Lebanese nationals only, the state-run agency reported.

Bayram's media office later stated their earlier announcement was "distorted" and that "what the minister allowed is an expansion of the percentage of Palestinian workers only... within what the laws allow".

The office said that all the details of the plans will be given on Friday, at 10:30 AM local time in a press conference at the ministry of labour, according to NNA.

The initial announcement said the alleged relaxation of restrictions applies to Palestinians "born in Lebanese territories and officially registered with the ministry of interior" and comes amid a dire economic crisis in Lebanon.

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The depression has thrown three-quarters of the country’s 6 million people into poverty and caused a "brain drain" as educated Lebanese professionals leave their homeland.

Palestinians have welcomed the news but some fear syndicates won't amend their rules and allow Palestinians to take up jobs in these professions.

"I think some syndicates could not allow Palestinians to enter," Anis Mohsen, a Palestinian writer told L'Orient Today.

Others fear the provisions could be easily changed as they were announced as a ministerial decree and not a legislative ruling.

"This is a huge victory for Palestinians in Lebanon, but keep in mind that this is coming at time when Lebanon's collapse has resulted in a massive brain drain. Now Palestinians... will be asked to help fill that void," journalist Mat Nashed tweeted.

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"I am tearing up... we've had generations not doing what they want to do... like everyone else I am... weary of this decision... it can easily be revoked by the next minister," one Palestinian refugee Islam said in a series of tweets.

The relaxation of rules also applies to any "foreigner whose mother is Lebanese or married to a Lebanese woman".

There are an estimated 174,000 Palestinians - descendants of hundreds of thousands displaced by the 1948 Nakba - living in Lebanon, according to a 2017 census by the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee. 

Palestinians previously protested for their rights to work in Lebanon in 2019, following a crackdown against illegal foreign workers in the country.

Palestinians born in Lebanon have frequently complained of discrimination and NGOs say labour laws have pushed many into poverty or unregistered work.