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#FragileMosaic - Construction sites like prisons for Syrians

The journey of the Overthefortress campaign in Lebanon

9 May 2018

- "Fragile Mosaico", the crowdfunding on Produzioni dal Basso to support the multimedia reportage from Lebanon and the new documentary: http://sostieni.link/17836

Translation by Carlo Geromel.

High alert moment for Beirut before the elections. Avenues and main roads are patrolled by army soldiers with rifles and bulletproof jackets: especially in Christian, Muslim and Armenian areas, where every pillar hold several flags of the different candidates. Limitations for night clubs, restaurants and bar, both for the daily schedule and for the sold of alcoholic drinks. Traffic is not allowed near school because of terrorism fear. The city has completely changed in few hours, it has become “almost” silent. Also building areas have been closed in order to let the roads free in case of need.

So, construction sites closed . But the people who were working are still inside of them. No one has come back. They are all Syrians. Everyone fled from war and now is illegal with no papers. For a Governamental non-written agreement, police don’t enter in sites. The law doesn’t care about people living there. “I’m free here, but if I’m on the street and they ask me papers? - a worker explains me - Have you seen how many soldiers around? No, it’s better for me to stay here”, says Khaled.

Also without the high alert it, it’s really hard to see a worker outside of his prison, also for a couple of hours. He starts to work at sun rise and he stops after the sun set. In the night he sleeps in building areas – prisons.

Foto di Raffaello Rossini

The owner allows us to use the palace that we are building like an house. It’s a normal thing in Lebanon. During summer it’s fine but in winter it’s hard, it’s cold. Also because we can settle in those areas in which walls have not finished yet. The wind blows a lot over there. We are not allow to stay in completed flats”.
Khaled fled from the war because he didn’t want to join the Assad’s militia. He is thirty and before he worked as a dental assistant. The money he owned have finished soon. He was cheated by a Lebanese who promised him a vegetable shop in change of money. He gave him the cash but he has never seen the shop. So, he went to work in building areas. “Here we are all Syrians. Before they were all from Bangladesh but now owners prefer Syrians because they can blackmail us easily”.

When I asked khaled about his salary he starts to laugh “They let me sleep here where I’m sure that police does not come. At midday they give us some food, to let us to live. Today we don’t work and we don’t eat. What do you ask them more, money? Sometimes they say 200 dollars per month but actually they give us 150, 100 dollars. They say we don’t work enough. It also happens that they don’t pay us, but you have to be silent and thank them. They do whatever they want”.

I met another Syrian like Khaled. He lives in the building areas with all his family: wife and two kids of 4 or 5 years old. When he starts to work his wife goes away - the owner doesn’t want to see her - and she comes back in the night. He is afraid not to see them again one day, maybe because they are arrested for illegal migration. When lunch time comes, he saves something for them, secretly. He’s not allowed to do it. He does not want to talk to me and I don’t insist. He put a mug outside of the palace and I saw a lady giving him some money. Charity is frequent in Beirut.

I wrote about domestic workers in Kafala in the last #FragileMosaic report, but for this people life is harder. There is no future for them. “They can push us away when they want. They do it if you reclaim something more or if you complain. Or even if you get older and you cannot stand with the building schedules. You are out also if you get sick or you get injured at work. They take you by your feet and they take you on the street. Nothing changes for the owner. There are hundreds of Syrians like me, they fled from the war and they are all waiting to take my place in this prison”.