HomeNow+PhotoIn photos: Lebanon’s banks close indefinitely for a second time

In photos: Lebanon’s banks close indefinitely for a second time

After a series of bank heists, Lebanon’s banks closed indefinitely once again.

Lebanon's banks announced a second indefinite closure following a series of bank heists. Photo: Nicholas Frakes, NOW

Lebanon’s banks announced Friday that they would be closed indefinitely after a week filled with depositors holding up various branches throughout the country in order to gain access to their frozen deposits.

During the first week of October, there were nearly daily bank holdups with the peak coming on October 5 when depositors stormed four banks in Tyre, Tripoli, Chtoura and Hazmieh.

This was not the first time that Lebanon’s banks made the decision to shut down.

On September 22, after a three-day closure, the country’s banking association announced that the country-wide closures would continue indefinitely until their security concerns are met by the government in order to prevent further heists.

The following week the banks reopened in a limited capacity with companies, hospitals and educational institutions being allowed to access the banks normally but anyone else requiring an appointment to enter the banks.

Every day depositors were still allowed to use the ATMs normally.

Lebanese have been increasingly unable to rely on banks for their financial needs, forcing them to look for alternatives. Photo: Nicholas Frakes, NOW

During the first week that the banks reopened, there were no incidents reported.

However, with the economic situation in the country continuing to worsen and its population becoming increasingly desperate to be able to take care of their families and pay medical expenses, depositors, some armed, began storming banks on October 4.

Since then, banks were held up every day until they decided to close indefinitely starting Friday morning on October 7.

Depositors can still access their money through ATMs, although it is at a much-reduced rate.

Following the start of the economic crisis in 2019, Lebanon’s banks imposed informal capital control laws that drastically restricted how much money people can withdraw from their accounts, making it practically impossible to withdraw desperately needed dollars as the crisis has worsened. 

The government announced that it would be gradually raising the fixed exchange rate from 1,507 to 15,000, a far cry away from the unofficial rate of 39,750.

Banks across Lebanon temporarily closed on October 7, 2022 after a string of holdups by depositors trying to access their money. Photo: Nicholas Frakes, NOW
Banks have been demanding that the government meet their security concerns in order to prevent future heists. Photo: Nicholas Frakes, NOW
Lebanon's banks have incerasingly implemented security measures since the start of the crisis and during the uprising when much of the protesters' frustration was directed at the banks for freezing their deposits. Photo: Nicholas Frakes, NOW
While people can still withdraw money at ATMs, it is at a significantly reduced rate from what goods are being priced at. Photo: Nicholas Frakes, NOW
Depositors at a bank in Tripoli wait to use an ATM after the banks closed indefinitely. Depositors are limited as to how much money they can withdraw from their accounts each month after the banks implemented informal capital control laws as the politicians continued to fail to pass their own. Photo: Nicholas Frakes, NOW

Nicholas Frakes is a multimedia journalist with @NOW_leb. He tweets  @nicfrakesjourno.