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Hundreds of migrant workers seek evacuation assistance

[United Arab Emirates] Domestic workers face abuse. [Date picture taken: 06/29/2006]
There are an estimated 90,000 Sri Lankan migrants in Lebanon. (IRIN)

With mass evacuations ongoing in Lebanon as a result of escalating Israeli attacks, a number of governments have requested assistance from the International Organization of Migration (IOM) in getting their migrant workers out of the country. Some don’t have the means or even the documents needed to leave.

On behalf of the authorities of Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bangladesh, Moldova and Ghana, an IOM team arrived in Lebanon yesterday to assess the number of these foreign nationals who need help evacuating to a third country, namely Syria or Jordan. While many other nations have made their own provisions for the transportation of nationals out of Lebanon, these particular countries do not have the capability.

“We are doing what we can to help them,” says Jemini Pandya, spokesperson for IOM. “We have been asked to help an initial caseload of 300 Sri Lankans, but this is rising by around 100 people per day. As you know, there are no commercial flights out of Beirut so they would have to go to another country. And because of the situation and the demand, travel costs are rising. Their respective governments don't have the means to help.”

Pandya notes that 46 Sri Lankans are taking refuge in the Sri Lankan Embassy in Beirut while the remainder are in a shelter run by the NGO Caritas.

With an estimated 90,000 Sri Lankan migrants in Lebanon, who are overwhelmingly single women employed as domestic workers, the Sri Lankan government expects the numbers of its nationals seeking evacuation assistance will reach the thousands.

In addition, there are said to be around 30,000-40,000 people from the Philippines in the country, with more than 2,000 having registered with their embassy for evacuation and some 160 having taken refuge in a Catholic Church in the north of Beirut.

While Bangladesh nationals have a 10,000-strong community in Lebanon, it is currently unknown exactly how many of the other migrant nationalities exist in Lebanon. In addition to the 300 Sri Lankans, IOM has received requests so far from 119 Filipinos, 240 Moldovans and 500 Ghanaians.

Accentuating the problem is the fact that some migrant workers do not have the necessary documents to travel. “These migrants don't have the means to leave the country and some of them don't have identity papers either,” says Pandya. “Those who don't are having new passports being made so they can travel.”

Pandya adds that IOM has also been asked to identify accommodation for Sri Lankan migrants until their evacuation to Syria or Jordan by land as well as a place there that could host the evacuees until their eventual repatriation to Sri Lanka.

IOM is talking to donors in order to help finance the evacuation of the stranded foreign nationals as well as liaising on the ground with the Lebanese authorities, the UN, embassies and others.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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