* Lebanese journalist
I read in a book entitled “Migration from Mount Lebanon (Mutasarrifiya)” by Dr. Abdullah Al-Mallah that according to an accurate census conducted by the Maronite Patriarchate in the towns and villages in 1906, the rate of this migration reached 50.94 percent of the Mutasarrifiya districts.
At that time, the Lebanese had their recognized and secured political entity granted by the six great powers, and the Mutasarrifiya was living in a period of stability, reconstruction and prosperity. Yet, people rushed in massive waves to migrate to the ends of the earth: America, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Argentina (the Silver Land), Africa and Australia, in pursuit of wealth and better living conditions.
I also read that one-third of Zahlé’s residents emigrated in only three years between 1908 and 1911, for similar purposes.
Why do Palestinians remain in camps in a country where it is impossible to secure for them the minimum required conditions to live a decent life – the right of every human being on earth?
Why don’t they follow the example of the Lebanese in the path of immigration, knowing that its dangers and difficulties were greater back then, compared to today?
From a purely humanitarian standpoint, I asked the question to a Palestinian friend, a researcher observing the daily struggles of living in the appalling misery of the camps. He replied “I wish…” and explained by uncovering the obstacles that even the countries closest to us impose to accept the Palestinian’s and the difficulties in processing such transfers, even if it is only for work, including obtaining a foreign passport of the category that allows him to visit Palestine, which requires the approval of the Israeli occupation authorities. Among these are also obstacles that fall under the Lebanese authorities’ responsibility towards issuing for the Palestinians travel documents that are accepted by immigration countries.
The fact is that there is an increasing conviction among the Palestinians that staying generation after generation in the camps of Lebanon, or any other neighboring country, no longer helps in restoring Palestine and establishing an independent state in it. If it were up to them, they would not hesitate in following the Lebanese example – pioneers of immigration and adventure. They would search for better living standards to them and their children, instead of settling themselves as refugees with the UNRWA and those backing it, and with the authorities in Lebanon or Syria, or any other countries whether near or far dealing with their own issues, and whose least concerns are in fact the Palestinian’s right to dignity and a decent life.
Perhaps it is an inspiring coincidence that a group of Palestinians residing in Lebanon and Syria demanding the right to immigrate in front of the Canadian embassy in Jal El Dib, on August 2019, coincides with various actions in the camps and outside to protest against the measures of the Lebanese Ministry of Labor, holding banners and chanting slogans such as “The country embraces everyone, and work is the right of all”.
The voices of those gathered in Jal El Dib, though in much smaller numbers, were stronger because they stem from the suffering of individuals and their yearning for a better future that makes a huge difference in their lives. The voices of the protesters with their rightful demands, are nothing more than calls to keep reality denied. While taking his decisions, every Palestinian knows that this country, Lebanon, cannot bear much more, and therefore its citizens are migrating in mass, and that work is no longer available in it to its citizens, before others and that the situation is not only worsening, but also becoming impossible.
Of course, rationality in this situation requires that the Lebanese state be extremely cooperating with the Palestinians who wish to travel and should establish a ministry similar to the Egyptian Ministry of Labor, which deals in finding job opportunities to Egyptian workers abroad, and concluding agreements with countries for this purpose. The Arab states, Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council, must react at least in humanitarian terms, and cooperate to put an end to the tragedy of living in camps that are not suitable for human beings, and that cannot be resolved by denial and blindness, nor wait for final solutions that no one knows when it will come.
Every Palestinian knows that this country, Lebanon, cannot bear much more, and therefore its citizens are migrating in mass, and that work is no longer available in it to its citizens, before others and the situation is no longer available in it to its citizens before others and that the situation is not only worsening, but also becoming impossible. Every man to himself…