Search
Search

Morning Brief

Another migration attempt, government formation talks, BDL staff strike: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Wednesday, June 29

Members of the Lebanese navy transport illegal migrants aboard a boat in the port of Tripoli on Oct. 31, 2021. (Credit: @Lebarmy)

Migrants leaving from North Lebanon, who thought they were headed to Italy by sea, were transferred yesterday by boat to Greece, according to a video broadcast on social networks and confirmed by our correspondent in North Lebanon. In the video, one of the migrants says that they first arrived on the Italian side of regional waters but “the European Union coast guard” took them on board a ship towards the Greek coast. “Greece is the cemetery of refugees, it kills them, drowns them,” he added. Increasingly more people are trying to illegally leave Lebanon by sea amid an ever spiraling economic crisis. In mid-June, the Lebanese Army arrested 34 Syrian and Lebanese migrants between the regions of Sarafand and Saida, in southern Lebanon, while they were preparing to illegally head towards Europe. Last April, a migrant boat was shipwrecked off Qalamoun in North Lebanon. Seven dead bodies were recovered and 45 people were rescued, while around 30 others are still missing.

Following two days of non-binding parliamentary consultations to form a new cabinet, Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said yesterday that the next government will “assume its responsibilities.” Mikati did not dive deeper into what those responsibilities entail, aside from “negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and the demarcation of the maritime border [with Israel].” Illustrating the immense discord in Parliament, several members from across the political spectrum issued statements about boycotting the consultations, amongst them MP Ashraf Rifi, who denounced the formation of a government which he says “will remain in the continuity of the policy of quotas and trusteeship over Lebanon, “ adding that it is “absurd to continue this destructive process.” Meanwhile, Independent MP Jamil Sayyed, who is close to Hezbollah, called the consultations a “masquerade,” whereas MP Fouad Makhzoumi claimed to have discussed “various essential subjects” with Mikati, in particular the question of the triptych “army, people, resistance,” a slogan defended by Hezbollah, which Makhzoumi opposes. MP Charbel Massad pleaded for “exceptional prerogatives to be granted to the next government, while Gebran Bassil reaffirmed that his FPM party “does not have a desire to participate in the government.” Ultimately, regardless of which government lineup is presented, if approved by President Michel Aoun and endorsed by Parliament, it will only be allowed to serve until Aoun’s term in office expires in October.

The head of the Banque du Liban employees’ union, which held a rally inside the BDL headquarters yesterday issued the ominous warning that “for now, we are courteous, but then we will hurt.” The rally occurred in the context of a strike that had been announced the day before and which, according to the head, took place “because of the attack on our dignity, which we will not accept.” He also criticized the fact that “employees [of BDL] are summoned to an investigation carried out as if they were criminals.” The union estimates that the number of BDL employees on strike is around 800, representing almost all staff apart from those in charge of daily technical maintenance. The one-day mobilization was aimed to protest the “legal proceedings and accusations” against the central bank and its staff, the union said Monday. Four former vice presidents of BDL, the former director of the Finance Ministry, Alain Bifani, as well as other employees of the central bank and the auditing firm Deloitte, which had audited the central bank in 2018, have targeted by new measures from Mount Lebanon Prosecutor Judge Ghada Aoun. Meanwhile, Lebanon's banks association ABL affirmed its unity in a statement yesterday, reiterating the necessity of Lebanon reaching a deal with the IMF. The statement follows criticism by several prominent banks of a recent ABL letter to the IMF in which it slammed an April draft deal with Lebanon. The head of Bankmed, Michel Accad, responded on his Twitter account by calling the statement “irrelevant,” disputing ABL’s claim that ‘the state has sufficient resources’ to cover the gap, saying “Actually, it doesn’t, and this is the problem.” He added that “the state should participate in the loss, but only up to its capacity, and without mortgaging future generations.”

A man was injured on Tuesday after an Israeli mine exploded in Aita al-Shaab, in Southern Lebanon. The explosion of mines scattered around the northern and southern parts of Lebanon at the end of the Civil War and 2006 war with Israel continues to claim victims. While demining operations carried out by UN teams and the Lebanese Army have eliminated a large number of these devices, some remain. Lebanon had asked for the UN to assist in clearing the mines disseminated by Israeli occupying forces, noting that the Israeli government, to this day, has failed to hand over the complete maps and specific locations of the hundreds of thousands of mines and anti-personnel munitions. During its occupation of southern Lebanon in the 1980s Israel laid an estimated 400,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines on the border. Some 40 percent of the mines do not detonate on initial impact, they instead remain on the ground and explode when stepped on by civilians, even decades later. The weapon, banned by 108 countries, releases small explosive submunitions, which spread over large areas. Last February, a young Lebanese man was killed and another injured by the explosion of a mine near Ras Baalbeck, in the Bekaa. Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman Ned Price announced Monday evening that Amos Hochstein, US envoy in charge of indirect negotiations between Lebanon and Israel over their common maritime border, visited Israel last week to discuss maritime negotiations. Price stated that this is “a step forward with the objective of reducing the differences” in viewpoints between the two countries, without clarifying how these fundamental differences, which caused negotiations to stall for years, would suddenly be narrowed this time around. Hochstein visited Lebanon in early June, when Lebanese officials had presented him with a new proposal to expand Line 23 to include the entire Qana maritime field in Lebanese maritime space. Lebanon and Israel engaged in several rounds of indirect talks on the disputed maritime territory, potentially rich in petroleum resources, between October 2020 and May 2021, when the negotiations were halted.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: ‘The hype is gone, now what for Lebanon’s crypto ecosystem?”


Migrants leaving from North Lebanon, who thought they were headed to Italy by sea, were transferred yesterday by boat to Greece, according to a video broadcast on social networks and confirmed by our correspondent in North Lebanon. In the video, one of the migrants says that they first arrived on the Italian side of regional waters but “the European Union coast guard” took them on board a...