05/28/2021, 12.43
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Thousands of migrants put at risk by Lebanon’s economic crisis and COVID-19

More than half are unemployed and unable to meet basic needs. According to a survey by the International Organisation for Migration, the crisis has exacerbated the “vulnerability” of workers. About 20 per cent suffer from chronic health problems, including mental health issues. Physical, psychological and sexual harassment are up.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thousands of migrant workers in Lebanon, hit hard by the country's deep economic crisis, are unemployed and unable to support themselves, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported yesterday.

Lebanon’s economic collapse – made worse by the pandemic and the aftermath of the deadly and devastating explosion at Beirut's port in August 2020 – has exacerbated the “vulnerability”  of migrant workers in Lebanon, says the IOM in a new report.

Half of those surveyed in by the organisation said they were unemployed, with most losing their job in the last quarter of 2020. As a result, over 50 per cent are unable to meet their food needs.

The IOM survey looked at the situation of more than a thousand workers from different countries, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Sudan and Sierra Leone.

“As the economic situation continues to deteriorate and employment opportunities remain limited, migrants' vulnerability to exploitation and abuse is likely to increase,” said Mathieu Luciano, head of the IOM Office in Lebanon.

According to the organisation, at least 20 per cent of workers surveyed reported chronic health problems, including mental health issues requiring ongoing treatment. Many also reported being subjected to various forms of physical and psychological violence, like beatings, sexual harassment, and non-payment of wages.

Even before the current crises piled up, several NGOs had complained about working conditions for migrant workers in Lebanon. Yet many managed to send money to their families back home.

This has not been the case since Lebanon’s currency crisis began in the fall of 2019. Some domestic workers are no longer even paid or find themselves in the streets without financial means to go home.

“Clearly, and based on this worrying assessment, there is an urgent need to rapidly scale up voluntary return assistance services in Lebanon,” said Luciano.

The organization called for speeding up the voluntary return of thousands of migrant workers trapped in Lebanon, saying it was seeking additional funding to cover the cost.

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