Lebanon

Country Profiles Lebanon

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Executive Summary

Situated between the Holy Land and Syria, Lebanon is riddled with deeply rooted political instability, and highly impacted by the devastating fiscal, economic, monetary, and sanitary crises. In addition, the explosions of 4 August 2020 in the Beirut harbor killed 190 people and damaged around 50,000 houses in the capital, causing around 300,000 instant homeless people and leaving the country in utter shock, leading the Government to resign on 10 August 2020.As a result, an increasing number of Lebanese now live in utter destitution. Population figures are not available for political reasons pertaining to the preservation of a fragile power equilibrium, as power is distributed on the basis of an implicit sectarian consensus. Available figures are therefore mostly estimates, and are necessarily subject to caution and are most likely to evolve dramatically as the current crises intensify. The country is home to a quarter of a million international domestic workers that are not protected by the local work code, and to international entertainment performers who are all at risk of exploitation and trafficking. Not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees, Lebanon hosts the highest proportion of refugees per capita since the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and even more so due to the ongoing Syrian Civil War since 2011, a heavy weight on all aspects of the existing political and economic difficulties. In this context, the government stresses Lebanon is not a country of migrations and all parties call for the return of Syrian refugees in Syria. Those refugees are equally at risk of human trafficking and abuse. Also a country of migration, Lebanon is increasingly dependent on remittance and foreign currency transfers from the Lebanese diaspora, whose size is also subject to debate due to a lack of a proper definition. The current equilibrium of the country is under the highest stress since the Lebanese Civil War of 1975-1990. While many commentators evoke the free fall of the economy, the survival of the country being at stake, and risks of famine becoming real in the near future, it is the extraordinary work of solidarity set out by international organisations, NGOs and the civil society that certainly appears as the last barrier preventing wider chaos. Lebanon defaulted its international debt obligations in March, 2020, and resorted to requesting help from the International Monetary Fund (“IMF”) in May of the same year. A third of the working population is deemed to be unemployed, and a half Lebanese people now live under the poverty line. The local currency lost 60% of its value and extreme cash withdrawal and transfer restrictions have now been put in place. In his 2 September 2020 general audience, Pope Francis declared being “aware of the extreme danger that threatens the very existence of the country.”

Country Profile

Basic Information

The Lebanese Republic gained independence from France in 1943, and is located on the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean basin, bordered by Syria in the North and East, and by the Holy Land – Israel and Palestine – in the South. The Lebanese political system is labeled as consociational, meaning a power sharing type of governance in which political offices and appointments are organised in accordance with sectarian criteria. The latest official census was conducted in 1932, and was never updated, as a new census is feared to threaten the consociational consensus. The CIA World Factbook estimates the number of Lebanese nationals to be 5,469,612 in 2020, while the World Bank estimates the Lebanese population to be 6,848,925 in 2018, including a high number of refugees. The ethnic repartition is reported to be composed of 95% of Arabs, 4% of Armenians and 1% of others. Lebanon’s current President is General Michel Aoun, the caretaker Prime Minister until the next government headed by Mustapha Adib is formed remains Hassan Diab, and the Speaker of the House of Deputies is Nabih Berri. The country has been suffering from the spillovers of the ongoing Syrian civil war since 2011, intensifying pre-existing political weaknesses. October 2019 marked the emergence of a new round of mass protests against corruption and the economic and financial crises, during which excessive repression has been reported. The novel coronavirus crisis only accelerated the effects of the free fall of the economy and Lebanon defaulted on its debt obligations in March 2020; resorting to requesting financial help from the IMF in May 2020. 35% of the working population is currently estimated to be unemployed and a half of Lebanese live under the poverty line. Only adding to the plight experienced by the Lebanese people, the explosion of 4 August 2020 that rocked the Beirut harbor killed 190 people and damaged around 50,000 houses in the capital, causing around 300,000 instant homeless people and leaving the country in utter shock, leading the Government to resign.

International and Internal Migrants

It is reported that a number of 250,000 international migrants, mostly women from Africa and Asia performed domestic work within their employers’ households (cooking, cleaning, child-care, elder care, gardening and other household work). Figures dated 2018 (see below) seem to indicate they had then reduced to around 180,000. These workers are subject to the kafala system, meaning “to warrant” in Arabic, a sponsorship system that binds foreign workers to their local employers with very little protection, no safety net, and the obligation to leave the country once their contract is over. The kafala system is an ancient Arab customary practice rather than a formal work permit, as no mention of it is to be found in the Lebanese legislation. Residency and travel conditions are tackled by bilateral conventions between Lebanon and the workers’ countries of origins. The kafala system is operated via a highly organised market of around 400 companies sourcing the domestic workers abroad in compliance with the General Security of Lebanon. These companies advertise candidates on catalogues featuring age, country or origin and price, the most represented countries being as of November 2018 Ethiopia (144,986), the Philippines (17,882), Bangladesh (10,734), Sri Lanka (4,982), Ghana (1,384), Other (6,461). A national consultation on the reform of the kafala system was held in Beirut in early March 2020 under the auspices of the International Labour Organisation (“ILO”) and in partnership with the Lebanese Ministry of Labour. On 5 September 2020, caretaker Minister of Labor Lamia Yammine issued the standard unified contract that abolishes the sponsorship system and enshrines the rights of migrant domestic workers. Further instruments for implementation and communication should follow. Lebanon’s domestic workers’ plight dramatically worsened amidst the current crisis, as many of them have not been paid for months, others have had their salaries down by more than a half, and others have lost their jobs after employers dumped them on the streets or outside their embassies. The Lebanese media does evoke this plight truthfully in a context of tremendous difficulty shared by the entire Lebanese population.

Secondly, many female workers are invited to legally come to Lebanon to work as dancers via an Artiste visa, that is valid for three months and can be renewed once. These women are mostly from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Morocco, and Tunisia. The Artiste visa holds that they are prohibited to leave the hotel where they reside, except for work. The government reported 3,105 women entered Lebanon under this program in 2018, compared to 10,363 in 2017. These figures will in all likelihood continue to decline due to the current crisis. As we will see at a later stage, the type of contract and the fraudulent offers that lead people to legally come to Lebanon pose high risks of human trafficking and abuse.
Finally, it must be mentioned that momentary instances of internal displacement have occurred during recent conflicts, the latest of which in 2006 with 750,000 internally displaced persons, who have since then returned home.

Emigration and Skilled Migration

There is no reliable or official source on the number of Lebanese living outside the country, and a wide array of situations is to be considered, from Lebanese citizens born in Lebanon living abroad to descendants of Lebanese families keeping ties with Lebanon. Estimates vary widely between 3 million and 15,4 million. There is no up to date study ranking destination countries, but Lebanese people have traditionally migrated to Latin America and the Western world and have recently developed an extensive network in Africa and the Gulf region. The role of the diaspora has often been praised by the Lebanese politicians, in the terms of “Lebanon, a bird with two wings”, the first one being the local population and the second being the diaspora. In recent times, it is the depleted job market that led many to emigrate: it is estimated that up to a quarter of Lebanese nationals live abroad, a generally educated or highly educated and qualified workforce in managerial positions. Figures dated 2010-2011 show that highly educated individuals represent a quarter of Lebanese migrants aged between 25 and 35 in OECD countries, with high variations: they represent 77% in France, despite representing only 23% of the Lebanese population. If emigration flows lead to a major loss in human capital, they have nonetheless contributed to create a vast network of Lebanese businesses over the world, which provide a major source of foreign currency and remittance that became vital to an increasing number of families remaining in Lebanon. According to a local study, the number of Lebanese leaving the country increased by 36% since the explosions of 4 August 2020.

Forced Migrants (internally displaced, asylum seekers and refugees)

In spite of the lack of proper countability, it is safe to say the country has the highest number of international migrants per capita by far, which probably reaches a quarter of its population, with Palestinians and Syrians making up to the near total of them. Different categories of forced migrants must be distinguished as follows.

Palestinians living in Lebanon can be divided in four categories. First, those who are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (“UNRWA”), a UN agency created in 1949 to provide assistance to the Palestinians who fled or left their home during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. They represent a vast majority of the total Palestinian population in Lebanon: in 2018, there were officially 475,075 registered Palestinian refugees, of which around 280,000 are counted as dependent to UNRWA for basic subsistence..Second, there are Palestinian refugees that are registered with the Lebanese authorities, but not with the UNRWA, also resulting from the 1948 conflict as well as from the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict, whose number estimates oscillate between 10.000 and 40.000. Third, there are from 3,000 to 16,000 non registered Palestinians who have settled in Lebanon after fleeing the Black September 1970 events in Jordan. Finally, 40,000 UNRWA registered Palestinian refugees formerly located in Syria have fled to Lebanon due to the ongoing war. The UNRWA states that they provide services to all categories of Palestinian refugees, irrespective of their registration status. About 45% of them officially live in the country’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps (Beddawi Camp, Burj Barajneh Camp, Burj Shemali Camp, Dbayeh Camp, Ein El Hilweh Camp, El Buss Camp, Mar Elias Camp, Mieh Mieh Camp, Nahr el-Bared Camp, Rashidieh Camp, Shatila Camp and Wavel Camp). These camps are to be found mostly in the South and around Beirut, and those who do not live in camps reside in the vicinity of the camps where they can access UNRWA support. The socio-economic situation for Palestinian refugees from Lebanon is highly precarious with two thirds living under the poverty line, and extreme poverty levels among Palestinian refugees from Syria is three times higher. A total of 94.5% of Palestinian refugees from Syria reported to be food insecure, out of which 63.2% reported to be severely food insecure. Before the current worsening of the economic crisis, unemployment was comparatively of concern at 23.2% for Palestine refugees from Lebanon, and 52.5% for Palestine Refugees from Syria in Lebanon. There has been no update of these figures since late 2019. It must be noted that a small number of registered Palestinian refugees have left Lebanon to settle in the West or in Gulf countries.

A more recent phenomenon was the major influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon due to the Syrian Civil War. At the outset of the conflict in 2011, Lebanon adopted what has commonly been framed as “open-door” and “non-encampment” towards Syrians, seen as temporary guests. Close to 950,000 Syrian refugees have been registered with the UNHCR until May 2015, when the then newly formed government suspended UNHCR registration of Syrian refugees, as the UNHCR’s preeminence was seen as a threat to national sovereignty and the government vowed to implement more restrictive measure and encourage Syrians to relocate. The Government’s estimate of the total Syrian displaced population now reaches 1.5 million. Registration figures also account for 14,291 Iraqi refugees, 1,941 Sudanese refugees and 1,996 refugees coming from other countries. Formal Syrian refugee camps do not exist in Lebanon, so most Syrian refugees live in informal settlements or in urban areas. 37.8% live in the Bekaa region, 26.5% live in North Lebanon, 24.5% live in Beirut and 11.2% live in South Lebanon. The Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon holds that household size is on average of five individuals in a typical Syrian refugee. There are no major shifts noted in the overall population with an even split between males and females, and more than half of the refugee population is under the age of 18. The share of households that have at least one member with a specific need (disability, chronic disease, serious medical condition, temporary illness or unable to carry out daily activities without support) increased to 64% in 2018 to 70% in 2019. 75% of interviewed adults were married and 17% were single. 78% of Syrians aged 15 and older are without legal residency, and 73% of displaced Syrians live below the poverty line. The assessment collected livelihood and income information at both individual and household levels: in 2019, the labour force participation rate is 38%; 66% among men and 11% among women. Difficulties in finding jobs are linked to the increase in restrictive measures targeting non Lebanese nationals. Low employment rates were also said to be influenced by challenges in obtaining legal residency, which also restrict the mobility of job seekers. The slowdown of the construction sector before the crisis, which is one of the sectors where refugees are permitted to seek employment, was deemed to be another hindering factor. Job competition is reported to be the main source of tensions amongst refugees, far more important than religious, cultural or political differences. The percentage of children between 5 and 17 years old who are engaged in child labour remained at 2.6%. Boys are still at higher risk of child labour than girls, 4.4% and 0.6%, respectively. Of children who are engaged in labour, 27% are working in agriculture. It must be noted that child labour may frequently be underreported and peaks during agriculture season.

The above mentioned migrants account for an approximate 2 million refugees in Lebanon. Nearly all these refugees are Arabs and therefore speak a language close to Lebanon’s variants of Arabic. The religious affiliation of refugees is not recorded, however, it can be logically deduced that both the Syrian and the Palestinian refugees are representative of their homeland’s religious repartition, this is to say mostly Sunni Muslims, which can unbalance the fragile sectarian equilibrium. International migrants are mentioned by the media in the light of the increasing poverty and the shared hardships induced by the current economic crisis, as well as the worsening effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. Today, all political parties in Lebanon agree that the Syrian refugees should eventually leave, though they disagree on the conditions that would need to prevail for them to return home. The Lebanese are mostly against the naturalization of forced migrants as they fear a reignition of the Lebanese Civil War and the confiscation of Lebanese land “to be used in solving the crises of others at Lebanon’s expenses”, as President Michel Aoun said. International organisations such as the UNHCR maintain to this day that sufficient guarantees are not yet in place for the organisation or facilitation of large-scale voluntary, safe and dignified return. In summer 2019, the Lebanese government has been pointed out for forcibly expelling 2,500 Syrians back to Syria off-the-cut without any independent body’s safety assessment of the concerned regions, in compliance with an official decision to send back anyone who entered the country illegally after April 24 2019.

Victims of Human Trafficking

Most women working via the above mentioned kafala system are according to Amnesty International, at risk of suffering labour exploitation, forced labour and trafficking, and the system leaves them with little prospect of obtaining redress. They risk being exploited and abused by their employers, whether through non-payment, sequestration or physical harm. Many have been the victims of fraudulent or false job offers, inducing the payment of fees by the candidates, which they will have to work long forced hours to reimburse. Amnesty International Press campaigns recently shed light upon the plight and ill-treatments many of these domestic workers face. Most domestic workers earned monthly wages of between $150 and $300 before the country was hit by the economic recession in late 2019, which caused a number of them to lose their job with no safety net and to seek refuge in charity structures for their daily subsistence. Female dancers who travel to Lebanon for work via Artiste visas are also highly vulnerable to trafficking and abuse. Cases where nightclub owners withheld the workers’ passports and wages, and controlled their movement have been reported as well as cases of physical and sexual abuse, and domestic servitude. Finally, several studies and reports have shown that all Syrian refugees in Lebanon are at high risk of sex trafficking and forced labor, a situation that is fueled by legal work restrictions and the dire conditions in which families thrive to survive. The United States Department of State underlines that Syrian nationals are commonly involved in the exploitation of other Syrians, keeping them in bonded labor to pay for food, shelter and cost of transit. Forced labor has been identified targeting Syrian children who remain highly vulnerable, especially in agriculture in the Bekaa valley and in Akkar, therefore exposed to high doses of dangerous pesticides, and illicit cultivation, in construction, and in street vending and begging in the streets of cities like Beirut and Tripoli. Children forced into criminal activity have been reported, with cases of child soldiers involved in militia activities both in Lebanon and Syria. Syrian girls and women have been forced into sex trafficking, victims of abuse and forced abortion. Young boys and men are not immune to this trend, as some have been led to perform sex acts through threats of withholding their pay or terminating their employment. Forced marriage of teenagers and women has been identified as another way of easing economic hardships.

National Legal Framework

Lebanon is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or to its 1967 Protocol, and has not adopted domestic legislation addressing the status of refugees, which is currently mainly determined by the provisions of the 2003 Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) signed between Lebanon and the UNHCR. The legal instruments dealing with refugees have been criticised as inadequate, as the domestic legislation that governs refugees in Lebanon is the 1962 Law Regulating the Entry and Stay of Foreigners in Lebanon and their Exit from the Country. Article 26 stipulates that: “Any foreigners who is subject of pursuit or has been convicted for a political crime by a non-Lebanese authority or whose life or freedom is threatened because of political considerations may ask for political asylum.” Concerning Syrians only, their influx by land was permitted by the 1993 Agreement for Economic and Social Coordination between Lebanon and Syria which guarantees freedom of movement of people and goods between the two countries. The agreement requires the presentation of a valid document after which Syrians are allowed to stay in Lebanon for half a year (extendable), subject to a 200 USD residency fee payment. The MOU is the only tool providing a mechanism for the issuing of temporary residence permits to asylum seekers whereby the UNHCR deals with claims for asylum and the government issues temporary residence permits, normally for three months but possibly extendable to six to nine months, time for the UNHCR to find a durable solution. Instructions have been published in January 2015 by the General Directorate of General Security concerning the entry of Syrians into Lebanon, assigning different lengths of stay and requiring different supporting documentation depending on the purpose of stay (tourism, attending school, receiving medical treatment, etc). The renewal of residency permits is not mentioned, and it is not known whether these instructions were formally adopted. In the context of the Lebanese government’s instructions to the UNHCR to stop formally registering Syrians, the government increased its involvement in refugee affairs in drafting the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (“LCRP”) in the autumn of 2014, updated in 2015 and 2017. These plans are part of the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (“3RP”) and lay down the premise of Lebanon’s relation to the international refugee regime. The preamble underlines that Lebanon implements some provisions of the 1951 Convention on a voluntary basis and considers that granting the refugee status to individuals lies within its margin of discretion, and that it is neither a country of asylum, nor a final destination for refugees, let alone a country of resettlement. Lebanon considers that it is being subject to a situation of mass influx and reserves the right to take measures aligning with international law and practice in such situations.

Concerning labour exploitation risks, the Article 7 of the Lebanese Labour Law that excludes domestic workers from the mainstream legal work is to be modified in accordance with the Minister of Labor’s declaration.. The situation has so far been in conflict with Lebanon’s international obligations, as although the country is a party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to the 1998 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, it does not grant domestic workers an adapted status and forbids the creation of domestic workers rights association. Finally, Lebanon signed but did not ratify the ILO Convention 189 guaranteeing rights and protection for domestic workers.

Main Actors

International organisations play a central role in Lebanon’s refugee situation. The UNHCR has had a presence in the country since 1963 and has been considered by the government to be a useful tool in dealing with the country’s non-Palestinian refugees, until they were asked to stop registering them in 2015 as evoked earlier. The heaviest burden of carrying out status determination, registration, healthcare, education, nutrition and livelihood assistance has thus primarily been shouldered by UNHCR. They and the World Food Programme provide essential cash and in-kind assistance to refugees. The special UN agency UNRWA was created in 1949 to support the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees in the Near East, and has been active in Lebanon ever since. Originally intended to provide jobs on public works projects and direct relief, UNRWA now provides education, health care, and social services to the population it supports, be they official refugees and other Palestinians. Finally, UN and partners continue to assess humanitarian needs and coordinate response efforts in Beirut following the blasts of 4 August 2020. Reena Ghelani, OCHA’s Director of Operations and Advocacy, recently visited Beirut to show solidarity with the people of Lebanon and learn first-hand about the needs of those affected by the blasts. Among the assistance being provided by the UN and humanitarian partners is shelter, meals, water, hygiene kits for women and girls, and nutrition services. From 19 to 21 August, more than 60,000 hot meals and food kits and 8,500 gallons of water were provided, as well as 16,500 hygiene/dignity kits for women and girls, and 4,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women were reached with nutrition. Since the explosions, 4,163 households have been reached with shelter assistance.

Religious NGOs have become increasingly central to Lebanon’s subsistence. Here is an overview of the main actors and their fields of intervention. The Order of Malta in Lebanon operates Community Health Centers, Mobile Medical Units, Day Care Centers for the Elderly, a Center for Cerebral Palsy Children, and a Hosting center for the disabled, while Caritas Lebanon operates 10 Primary Health Care Centers, 9 Mobile Medical Units, and run comprehensive programmes destined to the refugees. It is worth mentioning Caritas’ Building Alliance for Local Advancement, Development, and Investment (“BALADI”, meaning “our country” in Arabic) program, a five-year USAID-funded program, founded in 2012. BALADI works on expanding the Lebanese municipalities’ horizons by funding and executing their field projects and serves 155,000 beneficiaries in Lebanon. Partnering with Caritas Lebanon is the Catholic Relief Service (“CRS”), active in all aspects of humanitarian aid, serving 96,103 people as per their latest figures. Since July 2013, the Jesuit Refugee Service in Lebanon (“JRS Lebanon”) has been providing support to refugee families in Bourj Hammoud through home visits, accompaniment, the distribution of emergency aid, and other social services. The JRS Frans Van Der Lugt Centre provides formal and informal education to refugee children, youth, and adults. JRS Lebanon also runs several schools providing formal education to refugee children, as well as women’s centres in Bar Elias and Baalbeck. Catholic schools, convents and churches have all recently been increasingly active in providing destitute families with subsistence packages. Many of these schools are dependent on the help of the Œuvre d’Orient, who allocated 19.5% of its yearly budget to Lebanon in 2020, active in all fields of social help. The Talitha Kum network of religious and its regional coordinator Sister Marie Claude Naddaf implemented the Well of Hope Project, gathering Christian and Muslim Women from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, together acting towards the end of human trafficking in the Mediterranean basin. The group recently released a 30 minute long documentary on the tragedy of human trafficking called “Wells of Hope”. The International Catholic Migration Commission (“ICMC”) has teamed up with the UNHCR to provide technical expertise through its Resettlement Deployment Scheme, playing a vital role in increasing the number of refugee referrals for resettlement worldwide. Finally, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Lebanon has a mission to provide assistance to the poorest and supply them with their most urgent needs, carrying out spiritual, social, medical, educational, recreational and development activities, and vital Emergency Plans at times of war and after natural disasters.

Non confessional national and international NGOs also play a central role: the Lebanese Red Cross activated a Disaster Management Unit to tackle the Syrian exodus: a central administration, in addition to 14 working groups, were formed to follow up with managing the relief activities and to coordinate cooperation with donors through programs and projects, as well as with the branches of the society and its departments. Save the Children, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch all have a strong presence in Lebanon. Many Muslim NGOs play a major role in crisis management and poverty alleviation. Together, the above mentioned actors appear to be the very last safety net of an increasing number of Lebanese people and refugees.

The main problem for all actors is the worsening of the fiscal, economic, monetary, State instability and Covid-19 related crises, which has put Lebanon in the worst position since the Lebanese Civil War. In such a context where a half of the Lebanese population lives under the poverty line, the refugee issue becomes a secondary problem that might not be granted priority. Also, the politically fragile authorities have been perceived to have difficulties in negotiating with international organisations officials too little aware of the Lebanese complexities.

Other Important Issues

The number of Christians in Lebanon, although not formally updated as described above, is believed to have decreased due to migration waves mainly to the Western world during the Civil War, and the lower fertility rate amongst a more educated population. Another present risk is the collapse of Catholic education, one of the pillars of Lebanon, as parents cannot afford to pay for tuition fees anymore. A cry for help was expressed mid May 2020 by Sister Rania Azzi, daughter of Charity, detailing the hardships of the Lebanese people. At the same time, the Holy Father, through the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, has decided to send to the Apostolic Nunciature the sum of USD 200,000 to support 400 scholarships, in the hope of achieving a gesture of solidarity and with the desire that all involved at national and international levels will responsibly pursue the search for the common good, overcoming every division and partisan interest. This intervention is in addition to the contribution that the Emergency Fund of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches has made to deal with the emergency linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon (“APECL”) is the official body that gathers the authorities of all the local Catholic Churches in the country, be they Roman or Eastern. The APECL includes the Maronite Church, the Melkite Catholic Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Roman Catholic Church. The Maronite church being prominent amongst local Christians is often the one that delivers official statements that are published on the website of the APECL. She has long and several times called for refugee repatriation in Syria in an view not to exceed Lebanon’s potential, and not to further destabilise a sinking economy. His Beatitude Boutros Bechara al-Rahi, the Maronite Cardinal Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, especially condemned what is perceived as international pressures in favour of financial help in return of naturalisation. The Cardinal also voiced the concern of all bishops, calling Middle East Christians to stay in their countries of origins, not to cast further uncertainty over the future of the sectarian equilibrium in the current Lebanese political system. In November 2019, the APECL called for citizenship to prevail over religious affiliation at the national level. The Maronite Church especially expressed Her support for the protests against corruption, and urged the army to prevent clashes. In the context of the current crises, all local Catholic churches have been active in relief efforts and solidarity at a parish level. The Maronite church offered the Ministry of Health to use two of its buildings.