BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil outlined Wednesday his campaign to provide citizenship to people of Lebanese descent around the world, months after parliament ratified a law to this purpose.
The law, which aims to give citizenship to people of Lebanese origin, estimated to be comprised of around 8 to 14 million people, has been at the forefront of Lebanese political discussion in recent months.
Bassil outlined the provisions of the law, saying "anyone of paternal Lebanese origin is entitled to citizenship regardless of their sect, and any non-Lebanese living on Lebanese soil should not obtain citizenship regardless of their sect."
The FM and leader of one of Lebanon's biggest Christian parties, the Free Patriotic Movement, has been a strong opponent of efforts to amend the law to permit women to pass along Lebanese nationality to their children. In November of 2015, the Future Movement endorsed the draft law after opting to drop this provision in the face of objections, paving the way for its ratification in parliament. Bassil and other Christian leaders argued that allowing such a provision would alter the country's religious demographic balance.
Lebanon's top diplomat has also led the opposition against the naturalization of Palestinian and Syrian refugees, saying "we do not want to naturalize our Syrian and Palestinian neighbors, only our sons and daughters abroad."
He also discussed the current Syrian refugee crisis continuing to engulf Lebanon, with the country being home to more than 1 million refugees who have sought shelter away from the ongoing civil war ravaging their homeland, while suggesting that the ideal solution would be for them to "be able to return home" without specifying a timetable or condition for return.
In order for the citizenship law to be a success, the FM called for national unity and an open dialogue that includes all parties, saying "Hand in hand, we shall bring everyone together."
In May, Bassil announced that Lebanese consular and diplomatic missions in countries home to large populations of Lebanese descendants would begin the necessary procedures for them to gain citizenship.
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