Migrant workers in Lebanon have been hit hard by its multiple crises and half of them left jobless, the U.N. warned Wednesday, calling for voluntary returns to be scaled up.
The combined effects of Lebanon’s economic collapse, the Covid-19 pandemic and last year’s deadly Beirut port explosion have worsened already dire living conditions for migrant workers.
The International Organization for Migration found that “50 percent of the respondent migrants reported being unemployed, with the majority losing their jobs in the last quarter of 2020.”
The U.N.’s migration agency also said more than half of those surveyed said they were unable to meet their food needs.
The plight of migrants workers in Lebanon — including many from the Philippines, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Sierra Leone — has come under increased scrutiny in recent years over cases of mistreatment.
The IOM said many respondents said they were still being subjected to abuse, including beatings, sexual harassment and denial of wages.
“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, the agency’s Lebanon chief.
The Lebanese currency has lost more than 85 percent of its value against the dollar, in an economic crisis that has sent poverty levels above 50 percent of the population.
The U.N. survey found that around half of respondents wanted to go home but were stuck in Lebanon.
Many are unable to pay for return flight and in some cases are not free to do so as a result of an infamous sponsorship system known as “Kafala” whereby they relinquish their passports to the agencies that find them work.
“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 IOM said it was seeking funding to offer more voluntary returns to the thousands of migrant workers stranded in crisis-hit Lebanon.