Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi announced Wednesday that foreign laborers would be provided with smart ID cards starting early next year, noting that its primary purpose was to protect Lebanese workforce.
“[With] the use of this card, attempts at fraud and cheating will come to an end,” Azzi told a news conference at the Labor Ministry at the Beirut southern suburb of Msharrafieh. “It will also provide the laborer with increased security and allow us to further cooperate with the Lebanese security apparatus.”
The project will be launched at the beginning of 2016. It introduces technological advances into the registration procedures foreign workers are subject to before they are granted a work permit.
The smart card contains all the personal information of its holder as well as the stipulations of his work permit. Foreign laborers will have to make their way to the Labor Ministry or to local government office to be fingerprinted when the smart card comes into effect.
The biometric data on the card will allow the government to ascertain a laborer’s place of work and whether they were complying with their work permit.
“We have some cases whereby a work permit is issued with the understanding that the concerned foreigner will be working as a handyman,” Azzi said.
“Then we find out that he is managing a company.”
Azzi assured the public that the primary purpose of the smart card was to maintain the Lebanese workforce, and was not meant to totally prevent foreigners from accessing the Lebanese job market.
“The success of the project lies in its ability to safeguard the Lebanese workforce as that is the primary role of the Labor Ministry ... not handing out work permits.”
The project is the culmination of efforts begun by Former Labor Minister Salim Jreissati. The first phase of implementation comes at a cost of LL6 billion. Preliminary work commenced last July and was concluded a week ago.
“We then have a monthlong trial period during which we will be training our staff,” Azzi said. “After that we may commence with issuing the smart cards.”
As foreign laborers will be required to go in person to designated state agencies, Azzi predicted that the ministry could become overwhelmed. He called on the government to allow the Labor Ministry to recruit new employees. “We only retain 47 percent of our main staff, and they are unable to meet the needs of all Lebanese citizens.”
The project will be managed by the Lebanon-based firm Encrypt. “The smart card is the result of work conducted by Lebanese engineers and the cards were printed in Lebanese factories,” said Hisham Itani, head of Encrypt’s board of trustees. “This is proof that Lebanese firms are capable of being globally competitive.”