Liberia: Lebanese Immigrant’s Work Permit Revoked
By David A. Yates
For physical assault
The Ministry of Labour has suspended the work permit of a Lebanese immigrant worker who allegedly flogged a Liberian Security Guard assigned at Right Choice Supermarkets in Congo Town.
Raed EL Khoury works at the Supermarket as its warehouse manager — supervising the work of Liberians, most of whom are usually employees by Lebanese-owned businesses to handle low-hanging fruit jobs.
The Ministry, announcing its decision yesterday said that it had contemplated revoking Khoury’s work permit but due to other considerations and pending finality of the criminal aspect of the case, they were then forced to only “suspend the work permit.”
The victim, according to the Ministry is an indigent and vulnerable young man whose monthly salary is US$90 far below the minimum wage in Liberia.
“We have been receiving information from social and other sources that an employee assigned with Right Choice Supermarket was physically assaulted on the job,” the Minister of Labor, Cllr. Charles Gibson said.
According to Gibson, the decision seeks to halt any employment opportunity for the Lebanese immigrant worker Khoury, and to give justice a chance “as well as provide him an opportunity to vindicate himself, if possible, in court.”
He added that the Ministry takes seriously expectations of employers taking advantage of workers who are vulnerable and for some reason need help and assistance.
“It is important to note that a worker being poor doesn’t make him weak. He has a right to. All men must be treated equally in the place of work. This ministry is charged with the responsibility to protect the rights of workers as well as those who employed workers.”
He used the occasion to also call for the assistance of the Liberia National Police (LNP), to take siege of the matter, which will be monitored by the Ministry and National Human Right Commission, saying Liberia is a country of law and all rights including the accused must be protected as the court handles the matter.
“The Labour Minister re-emphasized why these processes are ongoing, Khoury will not be allowed to work in Liberia. The accused has been turned over to the police as they were called to have him arrested pending further investigation.”
Traditionally, Liberia has had a substantial Lebanese community for decades and it is still counting, the population increasing daily.
Many of the Lebanese have established themselves as shopkeepers and traders. As their relatives arrive from their ravaged homeland, jobs are found for them in shops and offices. The increased influx of Lebanese followed a greater flow of Asians here from East African countries.
At its height in the 1970s, Liberia’s Lebanese community was 17,000 strong, according to BBC News Now, after Liberia’s long civil war, it numbers around 3,000. At one point, Lebanese families had businesses across the country. Even now, the community owns some of the country’s top hotels and businesses.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labor has said that it has summoned Buddy Security Guard Service, who is the employer of the victim to answer questions about why the complainant is being paid far below the minimum wage of Liberia.