Press Release

Economic Crisis, COVID-19 and Port Explosion Exacerbated Migrants Vulnerability in Lebanon, New IOM Assessment Reveals

26 May 2021

  • A new report launched today by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reveals how the ongoing economic crisis, COVID-19 lockdowns and last year’s tragic explosion in the Beirut Port exacerbated the suffering of migrants in Lebanon, including migrant workers, many of whom have lost their jobs and are struggling to feed their families, pay rent and access vital health care.

The findings of the assessment have also generated an urgent need to rapidly scale up voluntary return assistance services for those stranded migrants willing to return home.

IOM’s analysis shows that 50 per cent of the respondent migrants reported being unemployed, with the majority losing their jobs in the last quarter of 2020. Over 50 per cent of respondents also reported that they are unable to meet their food needs. Approximately half of all respondents stated that they have substandard and insecure accommodation with inadequate shelter structures, unaffordable rent, threat of imminent eviction, and damaged homes.

At least 20 per cent of respondents reported health problems, including chronic physical and mental health issues requiring continuous treatment. Respondents, however, also expressed higher awareness of health-care services available, particularly in relation to COVID-19, and better access to protective equipment since IOM’s 2020 baseline assessment.

The analysis also finds high willingness amongst half of the respondents to return to their home countries. In the past year, embassies have also witnessed a sharp rise in the number of migrants wishing to go back home, but with no means to do so.

Many have reported that they are being subjected to various forms of physical and psychological abuse including bullying, beating, sexual harassment and forced to work excessive hours, as well as denial of wages. Some female migrants even stated that they had no other choice but to resort to exploitative, dangerous, or illegal work to provide for their families.

“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, IOM Head of Office in Lebanon. “Humanitarian organizations are slowly expanding their emergency relief programmes to address the immediate needs of vulnerable migrants. However, more sustainable solutions to alleviate migrant suffering, such as voluntary return and reintegration assistance, remain a glaring gap”.

Some 1,061 migrants - both genders - living and/or working in Lebanon from different nationalities including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Sudan and Sierra Leone were interviewed in Beirut and Mount Lebanon province. Male respondents were predominantly Bangladeshi or Sudanese nationals, while female respondents were mostly from Ethiopia, followed by Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Funded by the Lebanon Humanitarian Fund (LHF), this assessment was conducted by IOM between October 2020 and February 2021. It predominantly focused on how different crises impacted migrant’s welfare in Lebanon including shelter, food, water and sanitation, health care, and employment. It seeks to inform humanitarian programming, as well as longer-term protection and assistance interventions targeting migrants in vulnerable situations in Lebanon.

“Clearly, and based on this worrying assessment, there is an urgent need to rapidly scale up voluntary return assistance services in Lebanon. Since the explosion on 4 August, IOM has been working with the Lebanese government to assist 460 migrants to return home. IOM continues to receive many requests from migrants, NGOs, and embassies, which far exceed the Organization’s available resources” added Mathieu Luciano. “IOM is seeking funding to scale up its voluntary return programme, which will provide migrants in need with the possibility to return home in a safe and dignified manner and, through reintegration support, with a chance to rebuild their lives.”

Check out the assessment here.

Economic Crisis, COVID-19 and Port Explosion Exacerbated Migrants Vulnerability in Lebanon, New IOM Assessment Reveals

Tala Al-Khatib (IOM)

Tala Al-Khatib

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