Adonis Diaries

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Child beggars: routinely beaten and exploited in Mar Mikhael an-Nahr, Lebanon

Syrian child beggars of 10 year-old are routinely beaten by their employers, local valet companies

RAYAN MAJED posted on Now this Jan. 27, 2014

Corruption and child exploitation in Mar Mikhael

Syrian child beggars are routinely beaten by their employers and local valet groups, say sources

“It was 8.30 p.m.. I was walking down the Mar Mikhael Street when I heard the loud ring of a slap. I turned towards the noise and saw a bulky valet parking attendant hitting a young boy smack on the face.

I drew near and told him to stop beating the kid, but he said, ‘What’s it got to do with you? If you don’t like it, go and report me [to the authorities]. My name is…’”

This scene was reported by a man walking on Mar Mikhael an-Nahr, the street stretching from the Electricité du Liban building to the railway tracks. The street has been booming for the past three years, with a plethora of visitors flocking to the restaurants and pubs that opened on both sides of the road and in narrow alleyways.

Mar Mikhael

On the same night, another young man reportedly saw a child with a bloodied face and learned afterwards that he had also been hit by a valet parking attendant.

The young men with whom NOW spoke told of violence against street children, whose numbers have been growing, has become a nightly routine.

Simultaneously, street “occupation” by valet parking attendants has also become a regular sight.

According to a young man who works in a Mar Mikhael restaurant, “The valet parking attendants mostly stand in front of restaurants and pubs. They prevent people from parking along a road that is public property, and this holds true for local residents who want to park in front of their homes. Some valet parking companies rent land from the municipality, which is wide enough for as many as 60 cars, to park their clients’ cars, while others take over the street.”

The young man described a common street scene in which a 4×4 parks one evening at the entrance of a street leading to Mar Mikhael.

Several children – mostly Syrians – come out of it and spread throughout the area, selling roses or gum or carrying shoe polishing boxes. Most of them are no more than 10 years old.

The kids stay there all night, moving from one place to another and resting for a while on one of the area’s staircases before the same man – “probably their employer,” said the restaurant employee – drives over to pick them up.

According to the restaurant employee, these children roam the streets at night and are subjected to all kinds of violence and exploitation.

Some valet parking attendants standing in front of restaurants and nightclubs force a child to hand over half of what their earnings, and if they refuse, the child is beaten and the sum is taken by force or else the child would be banned from standing on the street.

According to the same young man, “People are the most regular feature in this scene. I saw a young man coming out of a nightclub and giving a $100 bill to a child selling roses there. No sooner had he driven away that young men swept down on the kid and took away half the sum. The same boy is beaten late at night by those he works for if he does not collect enough money. This is child trafficking.

The number of children – mostly Syrians – who are put to work has been on the rise, as there is no monitoring, no accountability, and no protection for those in need of it.

Marwan, a young man who works at a Mar Mikhael pub, said that things are controlled by two main valet parking companies on the street and several members of the police, and further spoke of “bribes exchanging hands.”

Rumors have recently increased regarding the internal investigation police “behaving in a weird manner” on the street, conducting “raids” and “unlawful arrests” and regarding “the payment of large sums as bribes.”

Another source with whom NOW met commented that “the whole country is corrupt” and recounted how an “internal investigation unit” patrol car swept down on him and searched his car after midnight. “They did not ask for money and I drove on, but they did ask many of my friends [for money] and detained others without any reason. It is as if someone is taking advantage of the lawlessness prevailing in the country to exploit people.”

“The municipality has to monitor what is going on at night, act effectively, dispatch patrols into the area, and organize valet parking activity so as to put an end to [this] chaos,” said Marwan.

This article is a translation of the original Arabic.




June 2023

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