ADC Files for Temporary Protected Status for Citizens of Lebanon and Gaza
Washington, DC | July 24, 2006 | Today, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) requested that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to designate Lebanon and the Gaza Strip for Temporary Protected Status due to the severe humanitarian crisis caused by Israeli attacks on those areas.
Temporary Protected Status would allow nationals of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip to remain in the United States on a temporary basis to ensure that they are not returned to an area rife with violence, with dwindling access to water, medical and food supplies.
To date, the Israeli attacks on Lebanon have caused more than 370 deaths, with children comprising more than one third of the casualties.
The Beirut airport, seaport, bridges, gas stations and roads have been bombed, effectively closing all means of communication to and from Lebanon. It is estimated that 600,000 people have been displaced as a result of the bombings and the United Nations stated that another 500,000 are expected to flee their homes if the bombing continues.
In the Gaza Strip, the main power plant, in addition to several key infrastructures have been bombed causing a humanitarian crisis for more than 1.3 million civilians. The repeated and prolonged closings of the border crossings and the bombing of three bridges into Gaza have greatly compromised access to humanitarian aid and the return of Gaza residents to their homes. To date, more than 100 Palestinians have died as a result of the attacks.
In light of the current conditions in Lebanon and in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian and Lebanese nationals cannot be returned to those areas without great threat to their safety.
ADC President Hon. Mary Rose Oakar said: "We hope that the Department of Homeland Security will acknowledge the uniquely volatile and dangerous situation in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and provide a temporary yet much needed remedy to its nationals."
ADC LETTER REQUESTING TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS
July 24, 2006
Dear Secretary Chertoff,
In light of the recent severe escalation of violence in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is writing to you to request Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Lebanese citizens and residents of the Gaza Strip in Palestine.
Over the past several weeks, the residents of Gaza have seen a significant escalation in the ongoing armed conflict causing more than 100 deaths to date and creating a severe humanitarian crisis. As of July 21, 2006, the exponential escalation in violence in Lebanon has caused over 370 civilian deaths and has injured over one thousand more. Lebanon is now the focus of international agencies, such as the United Nations, World Health Organization and various other relief organizations due to the severity of the humanitarian emergency.
Under 8 U.S.C. § 1254a, the Department of Homeland Security may designate any foreign state or part of a foreign state for Temporary Protected Status if there is ongoing armed conflict within the state and, due to the conflict, requiring the return of nationals to that state or part of a state would pose a serious threat to their personal safety. In the context of escalating and "ongoing armed conflict," requiring nationals to return to the Gaza Strip and Lebanon "would pose a serious threat to their safety," * U.S.C. §1254(b)(1)(A).
Current Conditions in Lebanon-
In Lebanon, more than 370 Lebanese civilians have been killed as bombs were dropped in heavily populated urban areas. On July 21, 2006, the United Nation's relief chief stated that a third of all casualties in Lebanon are children. Israel's air attacks have included strikes on Beirut, its seaport, airport, major highways, bridges and gas stations effectively closing all means of transportation to and from Lebanon. Major General Udi Adam, head of Israel's northern command, stated: "We have decided to impose a closure on Lebanon in the air, in the sea and on the ground." (Washington Post, July 14, 2006)
Beirut's main electricity plant was also bombed which cut off power to parts of the city and southern Lebanon. Israel's first bombing of Beirut airport destroyed all of its runways and the second, blew up its fuel depots. The main Beirut-Damascus highway was bombed while hundreds of people were waiting to exit the country via land. Air and artillery attacks have also damaged bridges and highways south of Beirut, effectively preventing any travel out of or into the area. The United States and several countries, including Canada, Australia, England and France are evacuating all of their citizens out of Lebanon due to the severity of the attacks and in anticipation of more violence in the coming weeks.
On July 19, 2006, the United States Department of State issued an updated travel warning urging United States citizens to defer travel to Lebanon due to the escalating violence and the closure of all means of transportation in and out of the country.
The majority of the deaths in Lebanon are not militants or soldiers, rather civilians, many of whom were killed while trying to flee the attacks. Human Rights Watch called on the Israeli military to provide details about a bombing on Saturday, July 15, 2006 that killed 16 people in a convoy of civilians fleeing a Lebanese village near Israel‘s border. This latest series of bombardments have caused the heaviest destruction in Lebanon in over 20 years. The most recent news reports show Israeli defense forces gathering at the Lebanon border preparing for a land invasion of Lebanon.
The World Health Organization stated that the attacks have severely limited access to water, sanitation, medical care and other health necessities in Lebanon and the United Nations humanitarian agencies have stepped up preparation for a coordinated, regional response to the crisis. As of July 24, it is estimated that 600,000 people left their homes in Lebanon and the United Nations stated that another 500,000 are expected to flee their homes if the bombing continues creating a major refugee crisis in the area.
Current Conditions in the Gaza Strip-
The strategic and targeted bombing of the Gaza Strip's power plant, civilian homes and major infrastructure, have created a severe humanitarian crisis in the area.
Gaza's electrical power plant, which was destroyed, provides power to the majority of Gaza's 1.3 million residents. Since then, power outages are widespread and last from 12 to 18 hours a day. On July 17, 2006, Christian Aid, Oxfam and Save the Children UK have all stated that the attacks on Gaza have created a humanitarian crisis for its 1.3 million residents. The destruction of the power plant caused three key sewage treatment plants to be completely out of action and over a hundred municipal wells are no longer working properly. This has already caused a marked increase in water borne diseases as clean water is scarce and untreated sewage is accumulating. With summer temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit, Gaza residents are without shelter from the heat and without consistent access to clean water.
The repeated and lengthy closing of the border crossings have prevented food, medical supplies and fuel from being brought into Gaza. They have also prevented Gaza residents from leaving or returning to the area. In addition to the border closures, three bridges into Gaza have been bombed, making access to humanitarian aid almost impossible. In fact, the United Nations warns of food shortages and hospitals are refusing non-emergency medical care for fear of running out of supplies.
Moreover, 23 percent of the drugs essential to medical care in Gaza will be out of stock within one month according to a World Health Organization. To date the attacks on Gaza have resulted in more than 100 Palestinian deaths. Homes with no connection to terrorist activities which housed families with small children have been bombed. Leaflets were dropped on July 20, 2006, explicitly stating that civilian homes would be targeted if they stored weapons or had connections to terrorists. Israeli military aircraft are frequently and intentionally using sonic booms, which intimidate and scare civilians, especially children, a civilian intimidation technique prohibited by Article 33 of the Geneva Convention according to Human Rights Watch.
TPS designation would allow nationals of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in Palestine to remain in the United States on a temporary basis until the above conditions end or subside. Once conditions have improved, the nationals of these countries can return to their countries without risking their safety or life. In addition, this temporary designation allows the Department of Homeland Security to terminate protected status if country conditions improve enough to allow the safe return of their nationals. Providing this temporary relief to nationals of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in Palestine would ensure that they are not returned to an area rife with violence, with dwindling access to water, medical and food supplies.
On behalf of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, we urge you, Secretary Chertoff, to designate Lebanon and the Gaza Strip for Temporary Protected Status to ensure the safe return of their nationals and to prevent any further civilian casualties in this violent conflict.
We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and your staff to further discuss this matter.
Hon. Mary Rose Oakar ADC President
Cc: Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice
United States Department of State
Assistant Secretary Stuart Baker
Department of Homeland Security
Under Secretary Karen Hughes
Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs — Department of State
Assistant Secretary C. David Welch
Bureau for Near Eastern Affairs — Department of State
Director Emilio T. Gonzales
US Citizenship and Immigration
Services Assistant Secretary Ellen R. Sauerbrey
Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Department of State