MARCH’S FIGHT AGAINST Lebanese STATELESSNESS

Lebanon has long been facing socioeconomic disparities that have resulted in marginalization and inequality. These challenges have given rise to a range of social and human rights issues, particularly evident in the country’s most marginalized areas. As such, certain communities in Lebanon have felt the weight of a flawed system, leading to alienation and exclusion. It’s within this context that MARCH has focused its efforts on fostering inclusivity and social cohesion.

MARCH has made it its mission to develop the resilience of marginalized youth and to create a more coherent and sustainable peace-building process. MARCH’s work is centered in Tripoli, where there is an urgent need for legal protection and services, especially after the conflicts between the Alawite communities of Jabal Mohsen and the Sunni community of Beb El Tebbeneh and the conflicts of both communities with the Lebanese Army in the neighborhoods. These confrontations have left many young individuals with legal hardships that were transmitted and expanded over generations. These hardships have led to young people being stripped from their civil rights, freedom of movement, education opportunities, and even basic rights like having a passport or applying for a job.

MARCH’s Approach to Legal Support in Tripoli

Through these legal services, MARCH successfully redirects the trajectory of these young lives away from conflict and seeking identity in extremist groups. By reinstating trust in governmental institutions and legal systems, these youths are less likely to resort to self-protection mechanisms, bare arms or resorting to conflict out of economic disparity. MARCH also focused on aiding its youth through providing legal protection and diminishing the youths’ exploitation which is key to rebuilding their lives. Having said that, MARCH’s legal department has embarked on a multifaceted approach

Raising Awareness: MARCH conducts group awareness sessions on a range of legal topics, such as civil rights and the legal mechanism of birth registration, ensuring that these youths understand their rights and the role of the legal institutions.

Providing Counseling Sessions: MARCH provides individualized counseling sessions and personalized guidance for its youth to comprehend their legal conditions as well as researching on several case studies. MARCH also extends legal representation for cases that require court intervention.

Providing Legal Assistance and Representation: MARCH aids beneficiaries in reintegrating into society and securing their human rights that are governed by local laws and international treaties through assisting and representing the beneficiaries in civil and military courts.  

Tackling Statelessness: An Invisible Crisis

MARCH’s engagement in Tripoli’s Beb El Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods brought to light another pressing issue: Lebanese statelessness. Many of the local youths participating in MARCH’s programs were found to be stateless – individuals from Lebanese fathers who were not registered at birth due to several reasons such as their parents were not able to register them within the legal timeline or their fathers were away due to battles or war and thus, they remain unrecognized by the government. This lack of official documentation severely limits their access to fundamental rights and services, including education, healthcare, and employment, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation such as humantrafficking. Through a data-driven approach, MARCH recognized the scarcity of reliable data within governmental institutions and initiated a comprehensive field study on statelessness in Tripoli in collaboration with Siren Association. This research, supported MARCH’s deep-rooted trust with the community, led to enlightening findings. These findings were then shared with key entities including the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities and the Ministry of Justice, with the aim of initiating systemic reforms to tackle the issue of statelessness.

MARCH’s commitment extends beyond research, to include active participation in campaigns and workshops to raise awareness about statelessness and offer legal counseling to simplify birth registration processes, ultimately minimizing the number of unregistered individuals from Lebanese fathers. Currently, MARCH is working on a draft law in collaboration with the General Directorate of Personal Status at the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities to streamline the registration of Lebanese Stateless individuals born to Lebanese fathers. These efforts resulted in a successful high-level consultative meeting titled “Lebanese Stateless: Challenges and Solutions.” The meeting brought together several Members of Parliament, ambassadors, experts, policymakers, judges, lawyers, and representatives from various local and international organizations to collectively address the statelessness issue.

Lastly, MARCH’s work serves as a testament to the power of grassroots initiatives in transforming societies. Through the legal support and statelessness-focused efforts, MARCH is not just addressing socio-economic challenges and human rights issues; but also producing tangible change within Lebanon’s most vulnerable communities.

Today, MARCH is in the process of developing an automated system that would help facilitate bureaucratic processes related to nationalization and registration. The installed and configured server will operate as an automated workflow for personal status, allowing to monitor procedures and requests, their status, duration, and retrieve copies of supporting documents. This new system will ensure that no file will be lost, delayed, forgotten, or neglected. Registration will take place in full transparency and civil servants will be held accountable.