Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Sunday sparked controversy on social media after hinting that Arab labour is a burden on the Lebanese economy.
“It is natural to defend the Lebanese labour force against any foreign labour, whether Syrian, Palestinian, French, Saudi, Iranian or American, the Lebanese come first,” Basil said on Twitter.
من الطبيعي ان ندافع عن اليد العاملة اللبنانية بوجه اي يد عاملة اخرى اكانت سورية فلسطينية فرنسية سعودية ايرانية او اميركية فاللبناني "قبل الكل"
— Gebran Bassil (@Gebran_Bassil) June 8, 2019
The Lebanese minister’s remarks originally intended to defend the Lebanese labour force caused anger from Lebanese, Saudis and Arabs who described it as “racist”.
Saudi Prince Abdulrahman Bin Musa’id responded sarcastically to Bassil saying it was the Lebanese labour force that burdens the kingdom’s economy, not vice versa, adding that there are nearly 200,000 Lebanese working in Saudi Arabia.
In response, Bassil tweeted that “Lebanese people work in the international markets according to the needs of those countries and they follow their laws”. He continued: “All countries, including Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, distinguish their citizens from others in law and this isn’t racism. When you defend your people’s rights you are a nationalist not a racist.”
Lebanon suffers from growing economic crises and high unemployment rates.
According to the World Bank, as many as 23,000 Lebanese nationals enter the labour force annually and Lebanon needs to create six times as many jobs as it is currently able to to absorb them.