Tax increases and a proposed charge on calls made via WhatsApp announced in Lebanon on 17th October have triggered the largest countrywide demonstrations since 2015. Millions of people have since protested in Beirut, Tripoli and other urban centers and have clashed with security forces. As a result, Prime Minister Saad Hariri offered his resignation on 29th October, likely leading to a prolonged period of instability.
"In an attempt to quell the protests, the government has promised economic reforms, but there is little trust among the public that the government will deal with longer-term structural issues affecting the population" explains Ben Abboudi – Global Threat Analyst at Healix International. "In recent years, poor governance in Lebanon has led to significant economic decline and public debt is currently around 150% of GDP, the third-highest globally, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) anticipates will increase to 155% by the end of 2019," continues Ben Abboudi ." A poor economy and various other long term socio-economic grievances will ensure protests intensify and may spontaneously occur throughout the country".
Global provider of travel risk management and international medical, security and travel assistance services, Healix International, offers situational advice to business travellers visiting the region.
Healix International Situational Advice to Travellers in Lebanon
- Monitor developments on a daily basis – this can be done via international and Middle East focused news sources including (but not limited to) the BBC, NYT, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera, Al Monitor and the Daily Star Lebanon.
- Defer non-essential travel while protests persist.
- Make sure to be familiarized with flashpoint locations in urban centers. In Beirut, these include Riad al-Sohl and Martyrs' Square and the Central Bank.
- Ensure mobile phones are sufficiently charged prior to ground moves.
- Avoid discussing the protests in public. Do not take pictures of protesters.
- Strictly avoid all demonstrations owing to the risk of unrest.
- If exposed to tear gas, hold your breath while you vacate the area to prevent the worst of the symptoms. Ideally, it is advised to cover your mouth with your shirt/jacket and, as much as possible, keep your eyes closed. When you're in a place of safety, rinse your eyes and face with cold water, change your clothes, shower and then seek medical attention if needed. Symptoms associated with tear gas tend to wear off on their own in around 30 minutes.
- Book accommodation outside of the vicinity of main flashpoint locations.
- Security managers should ensure evacuation plans are up-to-date in case of a rapid deterioration in the security environment.
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