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Karim Traboulsi

Gulf countries to punish Beirut by deporting Lebanese expats

There are fears substantial numbers of Lebanese expats in the Gulf could be deported [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 26 February, 2016

An ongoing crisis between Gulf countries led by Riyadh and Lebanon escalated on Wednesday with the planned expulsion of 90 Lebanese nationals working in Saudi, with more reportedly to follow.
Up to 90 Lebanese nationals working in Saudi Arabia will be sacked and deported as part of the Gulf states' punitive campaign against Lebanon, over what Riyadh sees as the country's increasing pro-Hizballah, anti-Saudi posture.

The sacked Lebanese expats could be the opening salvo of similar measures implemented by other Gulf nations, where more than half a million Lebanese nationals live and work.

The news was broken by Elie Rizk, head of the Saudi-Lebanese Economic Development Committe. Rizk said the number could rise drastically.

The announcement follows reports suggesting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have drawn up lists of hundreds of Lebanese expats they intend to deport for their alleged links to Lebanese Hizballah -- a powerful Shia Muslim political and military group aligned with the Gulf's regional foe Iran.

Most of the Lebanese nationals to be deported are Shia Muslims, said the report carried by Al-Aqsa TV.

Some of them had their phone conversations monitored by local intelligence agencies, and were flagged for expressing sympathy with Hizballah.

In recent years, Gulf countries have deported scores of Lebanese workers and their families, mostly Shia Muslims, citing "security concerns" on the back of escalating tensions with Iran and Hizballah.

Some of them, including individuals who had lived in the Gulf for decades, were given as little as 48 hours to leave the country.
The Lebanese government's efforts to resolve the crisis have been deemed "insufficient" by Riyadh.
Deep impact

Lebanon heavily depends on billions of dollars sent by Lebanese expats in the Gulf each year. 

"There are around 500,000 Lebanese working in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states and nearly 15 percent of them are Shia. If these governments opt to expel a large portion of the Shia then this could affect the inflow of remittances quite considerably,” economist Ghazi Wazni told The Daily Star on Wednesday.

Last week, Saudi Arabia decided to freeze the delivery of nearly $4 billion of grants to Lebanon to protest what it termed as Hizballah's intervention in Arab affairs and the failure of Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to endorse the Arab League’s final communique on the attack against the Saudi Embassy in Tehran.

All countries of the GCC with the exception of Oman have since issued warnings or bans against their citizens traveling to Lebanon. Abu Dhabi went further and reduced its diplomatic representation in Beirut.

There have been fears in Lebanon the Gulf measures could further escalate and include, in addition to expelling expatriates, withdrawing deposits and investments from Lebanon's already fragile economy.

The Lebanese government's efforts to resolve the crisis have been deemed "insufficient" by Riyadh. 

Lebanon officially adopts a policy of "self-dissociation" reflecting its delicate secatarian balance, which means it cannot take sides in regional conflicts as Saudi demands. 

Worth noting that the Gulf nations have not ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
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