Lebanon's banks to reopen after week-long closure amid security concerns

At least seven banks were recently held up by angry depositors demanding their money

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Banks in Lebanon will reopen on Monday following a week-long closure that came after several lenders were stormed by customers trying to retrieve their trapped savings.

Each bank will be in charge of its own security and not all branches will reopen, a banking sector source told The National.

The move was announced on Sunday by the Association of Banks in Lebanon. It came after the group held a meeting where it discussed the need to ensure the continuity of operations while addressing concerns about the safety of customers and employees.

"Banks will open with restrictions to be applied as per each bank's internal procedures and ability to secure the safety of its clients and employees," the source said.

The initial shutdown came after at least seven banks were stormed by depositors in a week, including five on one day.

An initial three-day bank strike that began last Monday was extended indefinitely on Wednesday. In justifying the shutdown extension, the ABL cited the continued risks that bank employees and customers faced. It also pointed to an “absence of any procedures or even assurances” from the government and security forces that would ensure a safe working environment.

In 2019, banks imposed informal capital controls, severely restricting access to hard currency and compounding the economic difficulties faced by people in Lebanon.

A financial collapse that first became apparent in 2019, described by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history, has plunged the majority of Lebanon into poverty and led to the local currency losing more than 90 per cent of its value.

There are severe shortages of basic essentials including bread, electricity, medicine and water.

The situation has forced some desperate depositors to take matters into their hands, with many in Lebanon praising their actions.

Sali Hafez, who held up a bank branch with a toy gun in Beirut’s Sodeco neighbourhood on September 14, managed to get $13,000 out of her savings.

Updated: September 25, 2022, 9:57 AM