Lebanese private beach in racism scandal
Published Thursday, June 28, 2012
A leading Lebanese private beach was caught on camera appearing to refuse to permit entry to a woman based on the color of her skin.
In a YouTube video, published on Thursday but recorded earlier this month, the staff at the exclusive St Georges Beach Club in Beirut tell a black woman she cannot enter because she is not a member.
However when two Lebanese people arrive immediately after they are allowed to enter despite not having membership.
The manager of the beach is later seen defending the policy by saying that migrant workers are not allowed into the club.
He says that the beach's policy only permits migrant workers to enter if they are with their employers, but they are not allowed to swim in the pools.
“If a migrant worker were to come her with her employer and sit by the pool – she's still not allowed to swim in the pool,” he says.
Lebanon's expensive private beaches have long faced accusations of racism and the Ministry of Tourism earlier this summer passed a declaration banning discrimination of any form.
Farah Salka from the Anti-Racism Movement said she had been surprised by the positive reaction of the police, who have often been accused of ignoring racism.
But she warned that it was important the beach was punished severely to set an example to rivals.
"The police were super cooperative – this is something that was clear. They told the person who filed the complaint right on the spot that St Georges would be fined," she said.
"So far we applaud the unexpected cooperation of the police...but we need to see what the fine is. If the fine is going to take 6 months, or if it is just a few hundred dollars, that's nothing. If the fine is not going to be enough money to make them think again then we will go back to the Ministry of Tourism," she added.
Salka said the problem was much wider than just the St George, adding that they had found similar problems with other beaches.
"One month ago when the (government) decree was out we called 30-40 beaches on the phone to get preliminary answers. We put an act on saying "I am coming in with my maid" and over 90 percent told us she would not be permitted to enter," she said. "This is beyond horrific in 2012."
Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said much of Lebanese society still had racist attitudes towards migrant workers.
“This year the Ministry of Tourism issued a directive saying no to discrimination but we know its ongoing and I think this video captures it very well.”
“It is a wider problem and the issue is not just about access to private beach resort, its the way that people are treated because they are migrants and particularly perceived as poor migrants,” he said.
Houry too called for tough punishment for St Georges.
“What is more important is what the Lebanese tourism police are going to do. It is for the state that has been alerted and for us judge them on what they do,” he said.