THU 22 - 8 - 2019
Jun 12, 2019
The Daily Star
New nationality law proposal finds support despite criticisms
Abby Sewell| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: One of the two major groups lobbying for changes to Lebanon’s nationality law has chosen to back a recent proposal to update it, despite criticism from the other group, which says the proposal is inadequate.
Currently, Lebanon's nationality law does not allow Lebanese women married to foreign men to pass their nationality to their children, though Lebanese men married to foreign women can do so.
Though several proposals have sought to redress this, all of them have stalled. The most recent suggestion was submitted last month by the National Commission for Lebanese Women, which is headed by Claudine Aoun Roukoz, a daughter of President Michel Aoun
The commission’s proposal, billed as a compromise measure, would give citizenship immediately to minor children of Lebanese mothers married to a foreigner. Children 18 and older would be given a "green card" conferring economic and social rights, and would be able to apply to become a citizen after five years. However, according to the proposal husbands would not be eligible to acquire citizenship.
One major activist group campaigning for equality in the law, the “My Nationality is a Right for Me and My Family” campaign, has therefore rejected the measure, citing the tiered approach and the exclusion of the husbands.
But leaders of the group Jinsiyati Karamati ("My Nationality Is My Dignity") said Tuesday that they are ready to support the proposal and will push for it to be placed on Parliament’s agenda.
"To get to the second floor, we need to pass by the first floor," Mustafa Shaar, the campaign’s coordinator, said Tuesday at a press conference. Shaar, himself the son of a Lebanese mother and Syrian father, would be among those who would get a green card rather than immediate citizenship.
However, Shaar said the campaign wants to see the waiting period for adult children to apply for citizenship shortened from five years to two or three years. It is also pushing for the nationality to be given automatically at that point, without requiring a court decision or other lengthy procedures. He asked also that the green card holders be given a special passport that would allow them to leave and reenter the country as if they were citizens.
Suha Ismail, an attorney for the campaign, noted that previous proposals had excluded women married to men of certain nationalities, which the current proposal does not do. Fear of permanent "settlement" by Palestinian – and now Syrian – refugees has been one of the main arguments put forward by opponents of reforming the nationality law to give women equal rights.
For example, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil last year proposed to give women the right to pass on their citizenship, with the exception of those married to Palestinians or Syrian nationals. The proposal never advanced.
"We find this law to be a positive step, a step to the first rung of the ladder we need to climb," she said. "We can't say that this project is perfect, but we see that it is the best law that is likely to [advance]."
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