Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.
The United Nations reverted to exclusively using lira to issue aid payments for Syrian refugees in Lebanon after caretaker Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar criticized a decision allowing displaced Syrians to withdraw cash assistance in dollars. A joint statement by UN representatives announced they would “temporarily pause the use of dual currency,” which was announced last Tuesday and would have enabled beneficiaries to “redeem their cash assistance either in USD or LBP,” UNHCR spokesperson Paula Barrachina told L’Orient Today. “It is in Lebanon's interest not to dollarize this aid,” Hajjar said Friday, claiming that the UN made the announcement without consulting his ministry. Aid payments to displaced Syrians in Lebanon, and misconceptions about them, have been a talking point in anti-refugee rhetoric — rekindled recently amid a rise in deportations of Syrian refugees and the implementation of new restrictions targeting them. Such talking points have often included calls for aid payments to be given to Syrian refugees “on their own territory.”
The World Bank announced an additional $300 million in funding for the Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project (ESSN). The World Bank said the new funds are for “expanding the provision of cash transfers to poor and vulnerable Lebanese households,” around 82,000 of which have so far benefited from ESSN — which aims to eventually provide assistance to double that number. The new funding is also dedicated to providing “$285 to $425 per scholastic year” to eligible students and “capacity building” at the Social Affairs Ministry. ESSN aid payments began last March, and by this time last year around 45,000 households were receiving payments while around 20 percent of Lebanon’s population — a significant portion of which has been impoverished by the lira’s depreciation — applied to receive the cash grants.
The United Arab Emirates released nine detainees arrested in March over their alleged ties to Hezbollah “after backlash and a media campaign” responding to the death in Emirati custody of Lebanese national Ghazi Ezzedine, a spokesman for the detainees’ relatives said Saturday. The Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed the detainees’ release. The newly freed individuals “remain in the UAE,” according to Afif Shoman, the spokesman. Shoman linked their release to public outrage over the announcement of Ezzedine’s death in captivity on May 4.
Amid international legal proceedings targeting Banque du Liban (BDL) governor Riad Salameh, cabinet on Friday tasked caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury with issuing a legal opinion and caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil with assessing the investigations’ impact on central bank operations. Since the international investigations into Salameh’s alleged corruption escalated to the issuance of an Interpol red notice, various local officials have repeatedly called for his resignation. “We must not show that one side wants revenge and the other wants to ensure [Salameh's] protection,” caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said at the opening of a cabinet session Friday. The caretaker cabinet’s ability to meet amid the presidential vacuum, let alone dismiss a central bank chief or appoint his successor, has caused controversy — including a boycott by the Free Patriotic Movement of government meetings, which the party’s head, Gebran Bassil, claimed “continue the policy of [postponing the election of a president].”
Public administration employees are scheduled to begin a two-week strike today to demand better living and working conditions, as well as increased transport allowances. The striking employees’ statement said that they have “not obtained even their minimum rights” while the payment of their salaries has been used as an excuse for increased taxes. Public sector employees across different domains regularly go on strike to demand improved working conditions.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from over the weekend: “In Sultan Ibrahim, fishermen are caught between garbage and sewage”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz
Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.The United Nations reverted to exclusively using lira to issue aid payments for Syrian refugees in Lebanon after caretaker Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar criticized a decision allowing displaced Syrians to withdraw cash assistance in dollars. A joint statement by UN representatives announced they would “temporarily pause the...