Friday 2 May 2008

Palestinians—May Day

The UN news agency reports:

Several hundred Palestinians protested at the edge of Shatila camp in south Beirut on 30 April ahead of the 1 May labour day holiday, traditionally a time for workers’ to air their grievances.

"We are humans, we have the right to live," shouted the protesters. "We are half humans in Lebanon."

With inflation in double digits and the cost of living rising, the government has proposed raising the minimum wage for the first time in a decade, but Palestinians say they continue to be marginalised in the labour market.

The rise in the minimum monthly wage from US$200 to $300 is the first increase in a decade, but local researchers InfoPro estimate that only 10 percent of Lebanon's 650,000 wage earners take home the minimum wage or less.

Half a million Lebanese are self-employed and would not benefit from the wage increase, while Palestinians do not qualify as they are considered refugees, not citizens.

Lebanese salaries average $500, while the actual minimum wage is around $320. Citizens' wages are further supplemented by a de-facto government set of subsidies estimated at $150 a month, through price controls on electricity, gas, fuel and wheat.

Picture: This Palestinian refugee family of 12 live in a house with two rooms only. © Salma Zulfiqar/IRIN

Thursday 1 May 2008

Lebanon—May Day demo

Around 10,000 marched from Habib Abou Chahla Square to Murr Tower in a festive and very red procession. Pictures: Farfahine - Jammoul

Wednesday 30 April 2008

May Day—domestic labour

AFP reports:
Lebanese employers, recruitment agencies and authorities must improve the treatment of domestic workers, New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

"On the eve of Lebanese Labour Day, we would like to highlight a huge segment of labourers who are not recognized as such. They are domestic workers, almost a 100 percent of whom are foreigners," Human Rights Watch's Beirut-based researcher Nadim Houry told AFP.

The group says the most common complaints from domestic staff, who are mostly women, are unpaid wages, lack of time off, restrictions on movement and verbal or sometimes even physical abuse.

Around 200,000 domestic labourers, mostly from Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Ethiopia, are not protected by Lebanese labour laws, HRW said.

A statement from the organisation cited a 2006 survey of 600 migrant workers by Dr Ray Jureidini which found 56 percent reported they worked more than 12 hours a day and 34 percent had no regular time off.

Some workers have died attempting to escape from their working conditions, the statement said, some of them jumping from balconies.

"The Lebanese authorities have an obligation to ensure that these women are protected by law," Houry said adding that the campaign, named "Put Yourself in Her Shoes," is targeting employers and employment firms.

Tuesday 29 April 2008

Israeli overflights

Insider Israel reports:

Israeli warplanes entered Lebanese airspace on Monday, flying at will over Beirut and elsewhere in the country, the Lebanese army said. An army statement said that "12 enemy Israeli warplanes" violated Lebanese airspace before noon, four flying over the Mediterranean off the coastal city of Byblos in the north and then headed toward the eastern province of Hermel.

Monday 28 April 2008

Prison riots

Iraqi prisoners in Bulgaria, Lebanese prisoners in east Beirut and detainees in Syria have mutinied in the last few days:

Bulgaria's news agency reports:
A riot broke up in the Bulgarian prison for temporary detention of illegally staying foreign citizens near Busmanci.

Around 13 o'clock six Iraqi citizens and a few other prisoners barricaded themselves in one of the building's corridors. Shortly after that the police arrived at the scene.

The prisoners set a mattress afire during the riot, but the smoke in the closed hall made them come out and surrender to the police.

The rioters are six Iraqi citizens, who were to be extradited tomorrow through Hungary, then to Syria, and from there to Iraq. The Hungarian authorities denied issuing them transit visas, so the whole journey was pushed back to April 30th.

Apparently the delay is the reason for the unrest. The six Iraquis were caught trying to cross Bulgaria's borders more than a month ago.

The Associated Press reports:
Calm returned to Lebanon's largest prison a day after scores of inmates set their clothes on fire and took guards hostage to demand better conditions and reduced sentences.

Seven policemen who were taken hostage were released early Friday after nine hours of negotiations between senior police officers and representatives of the rioting inmates at Roumieh prison, according to a police statement.

The prisoners returned to their cells amid tight security to prevent additional rioting.

Thursday's riots began when prisoners attacked their guards and took some of them hostage, the officials said. Some of the 200 rioting prisoners set their clothes on fire and black smoke was seen billowing from the building for some time.

The Roumieh prison was built 40 years ago to hold 1,000 inmates, but more than 3,000 are currently held there.

Lebanon's LBc runs interview with a priest and the relatives of prisoners on the reasons behid the protest.

From the Institute for War & Peace Reporting:
Reports of unrest and a fire at the Saidnaya military prison underscore the need for more transparency about the conditions in Syrian prisons, human rights activists and family members of prisoners say.

Numerous reports surfaced this week of disturbances at the jail, northeast of Damascus, where many political prisoners are held, but few details have been confirmed.

The government has not commented on or released any information about the reports of unrest.

The prison, which opened in 1987, holds an estimated 1,000 prisoners, according to rights groups, including Kurds, Islamists and democratic activists.

Sunday 27 April 2008

Dumb social democrat—number 232

Hezbollah held French socialist, reports the BBC.

Apparently the foolish man was snapping away in Hizbollah areas without permission:

Mr Pakzad, who was representing the French Socialist Party at the two-day Socialist International conference in Beirut, said he had been taking pictures of a mosque with a friend when he was approached by armed men.

He said he was blindfolded and taken to an unidentified location where he was held in isolation and his cell phone, wallet and medicine were taken away.

Hezbollah said Mr Pakzad's photographic activities had "aroused suspicion" and that the two men were treated with "respect".
"Once we were sure that the Frenchman and his companion were not Israelis we had no problems" with them, the group said in a statement.