Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Equality, eschmolity

And now for something close to my heart.

A friend of a friend, which, let’s face it, is a degree of separation which, in Lebanon, could account for the entire population, a country in which the guy selling kaak on the street is only two steps away from the Minister of the Interior, has just been deported. He’s been working here “illegally”. He hasn’t really been illegal, he’s been wrangling with the system, they’ve been messing him around and they’ve finally lost patience.

Image from here.

Fine, happens every day, right? Yes, but this fella just happens to be married to a Lebanese woman. Yes, that’s why it’s close to my heart, I’m (potentially) in the same boat as this poor sod. (I'm not, I'm fully paid up.)

The situation here is complicated in its simplicity. Essentially, if you’re married to a Lebanese woman you’re not entitled to work in the country, however you can live here… which makes about as much sense as a chocolate kettle.

Fine, I hear you say, apply for citizenship. Well, I would, but Lebanese women can’t pass on their nationality. Apparently, your rights are entirely dependent on what’s between your legs. Which I'd normally be all for, but in this case is clearly a gross violation of all that's good and holy.

So, you’re shafted, unless you can find a company to sponsor you. Then, due to various legal shenanigans, the Ministry of Labour, or General Security, will hold your passport for a while, pretend to fill out the forms before returning them to you on the basis that the quality of the fool in their local shop has gone downhill recently. Obviously, if you have money, this issue mysteriously disappears.

Why does this happen? Easy. The Palestinians. The Palestinian population in Lebanon is around 400,000, which is around 10 per cent of the Lebanese population. Yes, I know Wikipedia is about as reliable as Bill Clinton’s word, but there hasn’t been a census taken since 1932 (yes, that's true), so your guess is as good as mine.

So, the Lebanese are concerned, or rather the heads of the Lebanese political parties and institutions are concerned, that significant numbers of Lebanese women have run off with Palestinian men over the years and that by granting their spouses, and therefore children, nationality would disturb the wonderful political balancing act within the country. *Pauses for breath.*

Now, it might once have been true that, of those who had married a foreigner, the majority had got hitched to a Palestinian, but that’s no longer the case. With the diaspora resulting from the Civil War, the majority of Lebanese women who’re married to foreigners have settled down with 'orrible Westerners, myself being one. The stats are out of date and need to be revised.

At the end of the day, there is no answer to this problem. There’s been talk of changing the laws relating to children, but not to spouses … which doesn’t solve the problem. At the end of the day, Lebanon has a manyana, manyana attitude toward the issue.

So, what’s to be done?

Not a lot. However, if you’d like to add your support for reform of the law, you can sign up here and join the group on the Devil’s tool that is Facebook, here. I note that the Facebook group also accepts men, which leads me to suspect they're using it to pick up women. You know, like joining the drama society when you were at school.

In any case, it’s a good job that I’ve got a sugar momma.