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.

Friday 14 March 2008

Enough of security forces, already

The latest issue of Al-Manshour, Lebanon's leading left wing magazine, is available online (in Arabic).

Summary of expectations for 2008: more poverty, more repression, more security ...

Zina Kiwan reveals that:
According to Lebanon's 1946 labour law
Article 44: the minimum wage must be sufficient to satisfy the necessary needs of the employee and his family.
Article 46: re-examined to determine the minimum wage whenever economic conditions change.

In fact in 2008:
Approximately 60 percent of people live below the poverty line
A family nedds $800 per month to cover basic needs
Estimated inflation: 30-40 percent
The government trheatens to increase the value added tax (TVA) to 18 percent

Bush gone Geagea

Franklin Lamb writes in Counterpunch on the love-in between George Bush and Samir Geagea, the madman who leads the ultra-right Lebanese Forces:

Following successful visits by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt over the winter, the Bush administration is currently hosting and vetting long-shot candidate for president Dr. Samir Farid Geagea.

He is the leader of the Lebanese Forces (the successor to Bashir Gemayel's Kataib Phalange Militia founded by warlord Pierre Gemayel following his Berlin 'fascist epiphany' and declaration that "Lebanon needs some order like in Germany.")

[US official in charge of Lebanon] David Welch, who met with Geagea on March 12, and other administration officials, have reportedly given up on Lebanese army chief Michel Suleiman, not due so much to the now 16th postponement of his presidential election but because Suleiman is becoming 'shop worn' plus an increasing 'buyers remorse'.

The Welch Club (a number of US neocons, Cheney, Saudi Arabia, Jordan) has lost confidence in him, according to Hill sources, and they no longer trust the general to do their bidding.

Among Geagea's crimes [excluding those against ordinary people]:

• the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Mr. Rachid Karami
• assassination of a former leading figure in the Lebanese Forces militia, Elias Zayek
• assassination of Christian leader Dany Chamoun with his wife and two young children (ages 5 and 7)
• assassination attempt against Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of the Interior Michel Murr

Sunday 9 March 2008

Young workers

The BBC's Mike Sergeant reports on young workers in Tripoli:

Stroll down some of the inner city streets in Tripoli and you can see young boys sawing, painting, hammering and welding.

Mahmoud, 14, lives in a world of machines, tools and dirt and spends his days cutting wood and making furniture. He puts in 12-hour shifts for couple of dollars a day.

Most of the children work unsupervised. Some wield potentially lethal tools and machines with no protective clothing at all.

"Yes it's dangerous," says Mohammed, 12, who breaks up car parts for a living, "If I don't do it properly I can easily get injured."