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Farmers in Beqaa call for the removal of stringent conditions on entry of Syrian labor


Agricultural trade unions urged the government to facilitate the access of Syrian farm workers into the country in order to save the agricultural sector in the absence of Lebanese workforce. This urgent demand was voiced during a meeting held in Zahleh, in the presence of the Head of the Potato Farmers Union in Beqaa, George Al Saqr and President of the Beqaa Farmers Association, Ibrahim Tarshishi and a number of farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs. One farmer, Nadim Abu Naameh, informed As Safir newspaper, that he have been chasing paperwork for one whole month to no avail, visiting Public Security offices across Lebanon,  Marjeyoun, Nabatiyeh, Hermel and Baalbek, in order to issue work permits of 21 Syrians who have worked for him for years. “Syrians who have been working for years in Lebanon and supporting agriculture sector are now no longer welcomed. This is what we understand from the new measures of the government,” he said. He indicated that the high season for Syrian labor normally starts in mid-February and lasts until late November of each year. To this effect, Al Saqr read a statement addressed to Prime Minister, Tammam Salam and Agriculture and Labor Ministers, Akram Chehayeb, and Sajaan Azzi stating that the recent restrictive government measures regulating the entry of Syrians into Lebanon are destroying the agriculture sector in the country. He also put forward a number of demands namely: facilitation and streamlining of procedures, allowing Syrian agro workers bring along their families, wavering all requirements related to health insurance and work conditions, and the canceling of residence fees which all adversely affect the cost of production. Saqr pledged that Lebanese farmers are willing to take full responsibility towards any threats to public security that may result from recruiting Syrian labor. Finally, he requested an urgent meeting with the Public Security Director General, Abbas Ibrahim to this effect. (As Safir, 20 March 2015)

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