From Berj Hamoud With Love

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Suddenly, over a month ago, a certain Lebanese political party decided to “clean up” Bourj Hammoud from the “ajeneb” (foreigners) since the area is over populated by migrants. The argument was that the rate of theft and prostitution increased in the past couple of years and that it is time to lay down boundaries.

If you look for the reason why migrants or anyone really chooses Bourj Hamoud as their residential area, it is simply because it is one of the few places in Beirut where you can rent an apartment for less than 300 USD.

A racist report was aired on MTV twice, creating a huge fuss about the racism in Lebanon, and it backfired against the migrant community in Lebanon and suddenly the stories emerged.

We contacted the Anti-Racism Movement (ARM), who have supported the creation of the “Migrant Community Center” (MCC), in the heart of the Bourj Hamoud / Nabaa.

Opened recently, it is already an effective space for activism on migrant rights in Lebanon, and we interviewed one of the activists in the MCC, herself is a migrant in Lebanon.

1) Can you brief us on the current situation in Bourj Hamoud?

The situation is very severe, people are afraid, hiding in their houses, even some of the usual activists stopped coming to the MCC, afraid of stepping down the street.

2) What pushed things to go this far?

The documentary on MTV was the flame to set fire in Bourj Hamoud. On the spot, immigration forces were following the people as if they were terrorists. They didn’t care about whether or not one’s papers were in order. They were aggressive, they beat people up, and they stopped me to ask for my papers 7 times in one day.

3) Was this kind of discrimination noticed from before the MTV documentary?

The migrant workers face racism from the moment they step foot in the country until the date of their departure, from lack of food, to low life and work conditions, confiscating our papers in assumption that we will run from the law. To some it is very weird to see a non-racist Lebanese person.

4) Are you having any issues in the MCC under the current situation? And in case of any emergency, what are the measures to take?

As the MCC, we have no issues recently, since all our rent papers are official and we have the support of many organizations. We have a good lawyer who supports us.

5) Since you are in touch with some migrant workers in prison that have been arrested, can you brief us about their situation?

Well one of the girls in jail was arrested because her employer refused to pay her salary, and yet she is accused of robbery. The migrant workers in jail have lost all kind of hope, faith and dreams, even us, facing great deal of racism, we still feel lucky after meeting any of them because of the terrible situations they go through.

6) Can you tell us a little about the MCC and what you do?

In the MCC we hold all sort of activities, from workshops to discussion groups, to language classes. On a monthly basis, the community leaders hold meetings to discuss pressing issues. We have our own space, where we can hold events, cook, give out food to people in prison. This achievement gave us a push of empowerment and motivated us to work more.

A space for migrants is a milestone in a racist country like Lebanon. But we still have a lot of work ahead of us to constantly challenge the systematic violence against migrants, refugees, and all people of color.


Contributed Aladdin and Abdo

Guest Contributor

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