Staff writer
Last updated: July 17, 2012

No running, no diving and no migrants at Lebanon's beach clubs

Lebanese Beaches have come under fire for their discriminatory policies against migrant workers banning them from swimming in the pools like regular customers.

Yesterday, the Anti Racism Movement (ARM) of Lebanon posted a video entitled “Flat Out Segregation at Lebanese Beaches part II”. The video features members of the movement calling ten popular beach clubs while pretending to be inquisitive customers wanting to bring along their household helpers for a day at the pool.  They asked them two questions. “Are migrant workers allowed to enter your establishment?” and, “Are they allowed to swim?” Nine out of the ten beaches said they allowed the migrant workers to enter along with a Lebanese customer but not to swim. These clubs were Golden Beach, Oceana, Miramar, Long Beach, Edde Sands, Florida Beach, Portemilio, Cyan, La Plage, and Las Salinas. For the most part, the club administration blamed their other customers, stating that “it doesn’t come from us, there are customers who wont accept it.” Others simply referred to club policy saying that “it is forbidden”. The callers were persistent, and in some cases even questioned the club administrators about the recent Ministry of Tourism decree banning discrimination at beaches. When cornered, one club staff member said, “yes, well, nothing has changed here, she can come in no problem, but she can’t swim.”

This is not the first time ARM has stirred controversy relating to the popular beach resorts. Part one of their video series on segregation at Lebanese beaches featured an Ethiopian woman being refused entry at Saint Georges beach club. The landmark institution is caught on tape as it lets in a Lebanese man just seconds after rejecting the woman.

“We respect the fact that Saint Georges did apologize on the spot after we released the video and promised never to have such practices at the door,” begins Farah Salka of ARM, “but we want other places to do that as well. If you were ashamed and blamed and you held on to your stupid excuses and arguments concerning classism and racism, then we will happily and collectively put enough pressure to close your place down. That simple.”

Although there are still deep-seeded discriminatory attitudes within Beiruti society, the government has been supportive for the most part and punishment for the violation at Saint Georges is pending.

“We do see things have changed and are still changing towards the better. We just need them to move at a faster pace. More people need to engage and stand up against such nonsense in this age. We encourage everyone to join the movement in their own capacity, individually, formally, by calling, by writing, by fighting, by standing up next to people who face such practices, by being witnesses, by being vocal about this, by putting enough pressure. It is everyone's responsibility to change this situation. All of us, not just ARM folks,” said Salka.

One of the beaches phoned proved itself to be different. When questioned, a staff member at Zahrat Khayrazan shouted, “Of course she can swim, isn’t she a human being just like me or you habibi?”

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