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Theft on the rise in Lebanon due to economic downturn

Law enforcement has noted a growth in thefts related to breast milk, food and medicines
  A Lebanese anti-government protester, wrapped in a national flag, stands in front of a road blocked by burning tyres in Beirut

AFP/ PATRICK BAZ  -   A Lebanese anti-government protester, wrapped in a national flag, stands in front of a road blocked by burning tyres in Beirut

Lebanon's disastrous economic situation is having an impact on crime rates. The Internal Security Forces (ISF) have recorded up to 863 robberies and assaults in the first half of this year, compared to 650 in all of 2019, according to data accessed by the AFP agency. Murders and robberies have reached their highest number in six years during the first half of 2020, according to a security official, who asked for anonymity, told the AFP agency. He explains that the increase in crime is related to the deepening of the economic crisis, although he claims he is not authorized to speak on the subject. The police have noted an upsurge in thefts related to breast milk, food and medicines. 

The small Mediterranean country is in the throes of an economic crisis marked by a sharp drop in the currency and galloping inflation that has plunged almost half the population into poverty. Wages have fallen and the prices of food and supplies are constantly rising. Tens of thousands of Lebanese have lost their jobs or part of their wages, while dollar shortages have led to rapid inflation. The Lebanese pound, although officially set at $1,507, had reached $9,000 on the black market by early July.

Asalto manifestantes
AP/HASSAN AMMAR - Anti-government protesters try to enter the main gate of the Lebanese Ministry of Interior as they shout at Minister Mohammed Fahmi in Beirut, Lebanon

As Lebanon is heavily dependent on imports, the price of medicines, milk and baby food has reached record levels. The price of a relatively cheap brand of diapers has shot up from 15,000 Lebanese pounds ($10 at the official rate) to 34,000 pounds ($23) per pack. And the cost of a can of baby milk has risen from 23,000 pounds ($15) to 35,000 pounds ($23) on average, with some brands putting a price tag of 45,000 pounds ($30).

This month, a robbery in a restaurant in Beirut was widely reported. The thieves took a large and heavy safe containing cash that the owner of the premises, Walid Ataya, keeps in the bank that he does not want to keep. Since the autumn, Lebanese banks have gradually prohibited depositors from withdrawing their dollar savings or transferring them abroad, leading many to keep the cash in their offices or at home. Apart from money, more and more cars are being stolen. The FSIs have recorded up to 303 new car thefts so far this year, while 273 occurred in the second half of last year. 

Boycott attempts

Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab has denounced that some Lebanese politicians are trying to obstruct international support to rescue the country from its desperate economic situation, according to the local newspaper Naharnet. These people are trying to establish contacts in Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar. "We are fighting tooth and nail to alleviate the crisis in the country, while others insist on increasing the suffering of the Lebanese," he said without specifying which groups of people he was referring to. 

Gráfico
AFP/AFP - Infographic showing Lebanon's economic figures

The president has assured that the government tolerates such manoeuvres and much more when it tries to hinder any aid to the nation. He has also questioned whether it is reasonable for Lebanese politicians to try to boycott foreign aid. "This is shameful and close to national treason," the prime minister said. 
Diab has said there are reports confirming the existence of a plan to block the government from within the administration, according to Al-Ain News. Lebanon is suffering from a severe economic crisis, the largest in decades, which coincides with the currency crisis and the scarcity of the dollar. 

Diab has assured in a meeting with the Lebanese cabinet that there are those who make extensive contacts and make great efforts to persuade Arab countries that want to help Lebanon not to provide any assistance. "What we have heard from our brothers in the Arab countries about the contacts that took place with them by some Lebanese politicians, is really shameful," Diab said.