Outrage Flares after Lebanese Gov’t Bans Palestinian Refugees from Coronavirus Evacuation Flights

Outrage Flares after Lebanese Gov’t Bans Palestinian Refugees from Coronavirus Evacuation Flights

Refugees denounce racist migration policies by Lebanese authorities.

A number of refugees with Lebanese travel documents stranded at international airports have been barred from boarding Lebanon-bound flights following a recent decision by Lebanon’s General Directorate of General Security barring Palestinians and foreign “maids” from coronavirus evacuation flights.

The coronavirus-imposed travel ban prohibiting the return of Lebanon-based Palestinian refugees until further notice has sparked widespread condemnation and outrage.

A refugee who spoke to The New Arab said he has been stranded in the UAE despite already obtaining a green light from the Lebanese embassy. Lebanon-born Palestinian refugee Tarek Rafic Abu Taha (31-years-old) was kicked off the May 3 flight by a Lebanese air marshal minutes before take off.

Taha says he was met with 'racist remarks and inhumane' treatment by the Lebanese security agent.

In a phone interview with The New Arab, Taha said he had travelled to the UAE to look for work, like many Palestinian refugees barred from most professions in Lebanon.

Taha, a husband and father of a young toddler, was stranded in the Gulf state due to the Covid-19 pandemic, following coronavirus-imposed travel restrictions by both Lebanon and the UAE.

"I went to look for work and I was forced to stay here. I became penniless and couldn't afford food, let alone accommodation," Taha said.

The incident sparked outrage among Lebanese and Palestinians, prompting politicians and groups to respond.

Lebanese MP Paula Yaacoubian said she was following up on the incident with the head of General Security Abbas Ibrahim. Yaacoubian told The New Arab that "the circular is an embarrassment".

In response to the backlash, the General Security Directorate issued a statement on Monday, saying investigations were being launched due to misconduct allegations by the Lebanese air marshal, but also confirmed the existence of the circular.

The Directorate said the ban on Palestinians was made "in accordance to the decision of the Council of Ministers to repatriate the Lebanese exclusively" at this stage, adding that "non-Lebanese" who have the right to enter Lebanon will be allowed to return "at later stages", without specifying the exact timeframe.

Human rights activists have condemned the evacuation ban as one that stands in sharp contrast to the international humanitarian and human rights laws and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which prohibit mistreatment of refugees and forced pushbacks.

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