Lebanese detention center for migrant workers ignites protests
Protesters march through the streets of Beirut in October, 2012, demanding better treatment of foreign workers in the country. (AFP)
By Hashem Osseiran
Human rights activists are planning to protest the torture and maltreatment of 800 foreign workers detained in an underground parking lot in the General Security’s detention center near the Adleih roundabout at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s an underground parking lot housing a 550 person excess in capacity, you can imagine what terrible conditions detainees are subject to,” Wadih al-Asmar, general director of the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (LCHR) told The Daily Star.
Barred from sunlight and fresh air, detainees suffer terrible detention conditions for at times prolonged periods of time, without knowing the potential duration of their detention.
“This represents for the inmates a very serious mental suffering that is intentionally inflicted to them by state agents, this is the very definition of torture,” the LCHR says.
Asmar said that “detainees are locked up for leaving their sponsor, entering the country illegally, or to urge refugees to accept deportation,” adding that most of the people in custody are migrant domestic workers.
"There are Syrians however the detention facility is mostly for domestic workers.”
According to the LCHR, the detention center’s capacity was originally 250 although it currently houses 800 detainees.
“For a time the number of people held went down to 400, we took that as a sign that the detention center was closing down, however after the Syrian crisis started 2 years ago the numbers have gone back up,” said Asmar.
The LCHR director said that the facility has been operating for over 10 years. It opened in Adlieh in 2003 after relocating from the previous center in Furn al-Shubbak.
The Lebanese Center for Human Rights has been working on improving the facility for 6 years and has been asked by General Security recently to locate a new center that could house the detainees.
Asmar condemned the authority’s flagrant violation of human rights, stating that “we get promises every year that improvements will be underway in 6 months, however that never happens.”