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Iraqi Refugees Face Exploitation in Lebanon

On December 14, 2009

The Daily Star reported today about the possible exploitation refugees from Iraq face in Lebanon. Following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, many Iraqis fled the country and about 50,000 of them settled in Lebanon. Christian Iraqis saw Lebanon as an attractive destination due to its large Christian population.

Lebanon doesn't recognize the Iraqis as refugees, and many Iraqis prefer not to try to apply for a refugee status with the UNHCR, and instead work on the black market. Because they don't have the necessary documents and are employed illegally, the Iraqi workers are very vulnerable to exploitation. Isabelle Saad Feghali, a coordinator for Caritas a migrant rights NGO in Lebanon, told the paper that the Iraqis "may be working extra hours but they are not paid for them... They are constantly threatened – if they complain, if they do anything, the employer will inform the authorities.”

Lebanon is not a signatory of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Among other things, those treaties grant refugees the same rights nationals are accorded to when it comes to employment and social security.