SUN 15 - 9 - 2019
Jun 28, 2019
The Daily Star
Children of Lebanese mothers exempted from work permits
Abby Sewell| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanese lawmakers have passed an expedited draft law exempting children of Lebanese mothers who have “courtesy” residency from having to apply for a work permit.
While the debate over proposed reforms to Lebanon’s nationality law remains unresolved, lawmakers took the step at Wednesday’s parliamentary session to make life easier for the children of Lebanese mothers married to non-Lebanese men.
Lebanese women, unlike men, do not have the right to pass on nationality to their children. And while the children of Lebanese mothers are eligible for “courtesy” residency permits free of charge, those who want to work legally in Lebanon have historically been required to apply - and pay for - work permits like any other foreigner living in the country.
MP Ali Darwish, an MP from former Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Azm Movement, which submitted the proposal, said they saw it as a first step toward giving women and men full equality with respect to nationality. Darwish said the current nationality law was in conflict with the Lebanese Constitution, which guarantees equality to all citizens.
“With regards to the man and the woman, you can’t give them equality unless you give them the same rights,” he said.
“The man has the right to give his children nationality and the woman does not have the right to give her children nationality, so it follows that there is not equality.”
Darwish said that pending an amendment of the nationality law, the removal of the work permit requirement was “a step on the path to making equality between the man and the woman ... And this will make [the woman’s] life and the life of her children easier in Lebanon. They won’t be treated completely as foreigners, as if they were like any foreigner from a foreign father and mother.”
Over the past year, several proposals have been put forward to amend the nationality law, some more far-reaching than others. The most recent of these, submitted by the National Commission for Lebanese Women, would give nationality to minor children of Lebanese mothers, while those over 18 would get a “green card” and could apply for nationality after five years. The proposal has been met with mixed reactions from activists pushing for reform, with some supporting it as a step toward equality, while others say it creates new forms of discrimination.
According to the state-run National News Agency, the proposal to remove the work permit requirement was opposed by the Free Patriotic Movement and Lebanese Forces. The two Christian parties have also opposed proposals to amend the nationality law, largely because of concerns about demographic threats should citizenship be given to the children of women married to Palestinians and Syrians, who are primarily Sunni Muslim.
FPM MP Georges Atallah, in a statement posted on Twitter, described the work permit law as a backdoor attempt to change the nationality law.
“Today, unfortunately, the law to exempt the children of a Lebanese woman married to a foreigner from obtaining a work permit has been passed,” he wrote. “If someone is thinking that he can get retail what he couldn’t get wholesale, he is very wrong,” he said, a seeming reference to the piecemeal nature of the reform.
On the other side, both the NCLW and Future Movement MP Rola Tabsh, who had submitted her own, farther-reaching proposal to reform the nationality law, issued statements praising the new law, with Tabsh calling it “the beginning of hope for the Lebanese mother.”
Activists also praised the move to scrap the work permit requirement. Karima Chebbo, coordinator of the “My Nationality is a Right for Me and My Family” campaign, said that in the past, children of Lebanese mothers had been caught up in crackdowns on other foreigners working without proper documentation.
“There was no law before that said they don’t need a work permit, so there were times in some places when they would be terminated because they didn’t have a work permit, although they had residency,” she said. “So, now there is a law and no one can argue that they can’t work, no one can argue that they should be dealt with like the other foreign workers.” However, she added, “Now after this law comes out, of course it will be something good, but the basic point that we want to stress is that we want our right to nationality and without any discrimination.”
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