Last updated: 19 June, 2012

Sudanese asylum-seekers and refugees protest outside UN refugee office in Beirut

A group of Sudanese asylum-seekers and refugees protested outside the Beirut offices of the UN refugee agency on Tuesday, the ninth day of a hunger-strike demanding better rights.

The 21 protesters demanded the UN High Commissioner for Refugees “immediately refer for resettlement recognised refugees who fulfill the requested criteria, and fully assist in the regulation of temporary legal status in Lebanon.”

They also appealed for improved living conditions in Lebanon, where they also have difficulty finding decent work.

“Sudanese are always at risk of arbitrary detention and illegal deportation,” they said in a statement.

Protester Mohammed Abdel Latif told AFP that in Lebanon, UNHCR refugee status is “symbolic” and does not provide them protection, while accusing the authorities of treating Sudanese as illegal immigrants.

“We don’t have work, and we live in cramped houses for four or five families, because we can’t afford to pay the rent,” Abdel Latif said.

Another hunger-striker said he spent seven months in a Lebanese prison for entering the country illegally — although he had only been sentenced to one month in jail.

“I was in a small cell with around 20 other people, not knowing when I was going to be set free,” Zakaria, who declined to give his full name, told AFP.

UNHCR spokeswoman Dana Suleiman said there are 584 Sudanese refugees in Lebanon, adding the process of determining who has been cleared for resettlement in a third country is long.

Lebanon is not a country of asylum, Suleiman said.