Saturday, 15 March 2008

Syrian labourers

The AFP news agency runs a profile on problems faced by Syrian labourers in Lebanon:

As dawn breaks each day, Joseph heads to a busy Beirut intersection where he waits for up to eight hours in the hope that someone will need him for a job.

Joseph, who is in his early 40s, is a Syrian migrant worker in Lebanon.

He has been here for years and remains although life has become tough, economically and even politically.

There are tens of thousands of Syrian workers like Joseph in Lebanon, but no official figures are available on their exact number.

Most Syrian migrant workers don't know if they will make ends meet on a given day. The arduous morning wait might be fruitless or someone might come by and pick them up for 12 to 14 hours working on a construction site or in agriculture.

But the boss at the end of the day might decide not to pay them their daily wage and there is no one to turn to for help.

"There is no one to protect your rights. Sometimes the employers don't pay us or just kick us out after days of work, but we have no choice. We have to work in order to survive," says Joseph, who has a degree and once taught Arabic in a school in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

"We leave our families behind to come here, because with wages as they are, it is too expensive to live back home."

Since 2005, life here has become more difficult. Whereas before you could save two thirds of your salary, now you can barely make ends meet," said Joseph who usually earns 20,000 Lebanese lira (about 13 dollars) a day.

2 comments:

blackstone said...

But the boss at the end of the day might decide not to pay them their daily wage and there is no one to turn to for help.

"There is no one to protect your rights. Sometimes the employers don't pay us or just kick us out after days of work, but we have no choice. We have to work in order to survive," says Joseph, who has a degree and once taught Arabic in a school in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

this is a very difficult situation, since there i a high supply of migrant workers, they can be fired for organizing or fighting for their pay, while if they don't organize this will continue to happen.

Lebanese socialist said...

I remember when Havez el-Assad died and Syrians went home for the funeral. All work on building sites, agriculture, street cleaning etc came to a halt.

I was at dinner hosted by a wealthy neighbour were the guests (all upper class Christians) complained bitterly that nothing in the country was moving.

The conversation then turned to the problem of "too many Syrians in the country". But when I asked why they did not hire Lebanese, they said because they did not trust them (or where frightened about letting a poor Shia (for exmaple) get too close to their neighbourhoods.