BEIRUT, Lebanon, October 1 (WNN) — Growing economic difficulties are prompting a growing number of Lebanese population to seek a better life abroad in another mass exodus.
“We are planning to leave… we are working on an exit plan,” Mira Mabsout, a landscape architect who has a daughter, told WNN.
This is a common refrain.
Mabsout and her husband are “lucky and blessed.” They have good jobs and are well paid, mostly in US “fresh dollars”, worth 17,000 Lebanese pounds in market trade, compared to 1,500 LL at the official exchange rate and 3,900 LL in banks.
“But financial reasons aren’t everything… we don’t feel safe,” Mabsout said. She is mostly feared for her inability to secure proper medical care with her 3-year-old daughter and the collapse of the health system.
In addition to the dramatic economic and financial fallout, the massive explosion at the port of Beirut in August 2020 was a turning point. The explosion killed more than 200 people, injured 6,000 and damaged more than 300,000 homes.
“We’re looking out somewhere [Lebanon]. We tried to move to Athens … but it didn’t work out,” Mabsout said. “We’re not going to just go out … without getting a job outside.”
However, she longs to “live a normal life”, and doesn’t want to worry about electricity and gasoline every day.
Lebanon is facing crippling fuel and power shortages that have led to power blackouts and hours-long queues at gas stations.
“My daughter knows there’s a fuel crisis and that gasoline is a big problem for us… and it’s something that kills me. Even if I want to hide it, she’s still living,” Mabsout said. “Also, I want to raise my family and have other kids, but I can’t because I can’t get diapers, baby milk, or basic necessities.”
She wants to seek a normal life because she believes that the situation in Lebanon will not get better.
She said, “I don’t want to be flexible, and I don’t want to adapt.. I want simple things.”
Increase in passport applications
Last month, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s Directorate of General Security, revealed that his agency, which typically handles 3,000 passport applications per day, is receiving between 7,000 and 8,000 each day.
“But that does not mean that all [applicants] are actually leaving the country,” said Dal Hitti, president of the Maubdarat wa Qarat (Initiatives and Decisions) Association, who has a doctorate in human resources.
Although no official figures are available, Hittites estimated the number of people leaving the country since the economic crisis in 2019 was between 400,000 and 500,000, including students, doctors and other highly skilled workers. Now they are mainly followed by families moving to Canada.
The Civil War of 1975–90 saw the largest exodus, with about 980,000 people emigrating. The Hittite said that between 1990 and 2019, about 750,000 people had left.
“We have been living in a bubble since the 1990s, and we lost that sense of belonging, unlike the times of the civil war, when people were more stable and settled in the country than they are now, despite the difficult situation at the time,” he said. said. said.
Dubai, an attractive but expensive location, is hosting 70,000-75,000 Lebanese who migrated. But 50,000 of them haven’t found a job, and “some are accepting a meager salary of barely reaching $1,000 a month in hopes of helping their parents or getting a better job, while the minimum wage is $4,000.” Is.”
“It’s no longer about desperation. It’s suicide,” said Hittite.
The Crisis Observatory at the American University of Beirut recently warned that Lebanon was entering a third wave of mass migration, citing three alarming indicators: the high percentage of Lebanese youth who want to leave 77% based on the survey), the highest percentage among Arab countries), the mass migration of medical and education workers and the expected dilapidation of the current crisis.
“The last wave of migration was not a response to conflict, not war. It was really because of the conditions that got so bad,” said Dr. Jasmine Diab, assistant professor of migration studies at Lebanese American University.
Lebanon, Diab explained, was always a “crossroads crisis”, and the current one was not just about the COVID-19 pandemic, the roadblocks about politics and the economy, but the Beirut port explosion, and people having lost their homes and their lives. Didn’t have access. Their money is deposited in banks.
In addition, the recent fuel crisis has degraded the population “so humiliated” that “getting bread or gasoline becomes a feat.”
“There are so many crossroads as to why people want to migrate in this period,” Diab told WNN, adding that COVID-19 further aggravated the situation. Then came the port explosion, which “was certainly a major push factor … that put Lebanon on a high level of emergency.”
Diab said that many countries, such as Canada and across Europe, have become more liberal in their emigration policies, facilitating short-term migration to Lebanon as a response to the explosion.
“Our country is not in a state of conflict or violence. Therefore, Lebanese could not take refuge like Syrians, although interestingly, things are very similar on both sides.” “Lebanese want to leave, but the international community does not consider Lebanon to be a state of emergency.”
Still, not everyone wants to leave.
Glynis Mason Jabbor, a 72-year-old British woman who moved to Beirut to work as an English teacher in 1974, is not ready to move back to London, although she has recently lost her Lebanese husband, And his 38-year-old son decided to settle there.
“At the moment, the stretch in Beirut is much stronger than the stretch in London,” said Jabbour. “I love London. I’ll have a wonderful time. But after two weeks, I’ll be pulled back to Beirut: my home, my memories, the blue sky, my quarters, where people will say, ‘Where were you? We missed you’… how can I start making it in London again?”
Having survived the civil war and the 1982 Israeli invasion, Jabbor said he was used to difficulties.
“I have lived in Beirut for two-thirds of my life… I have decided to stay. I may eventually be forced to leave, when my Lebanese pounds run out, or my landlady will pay my rent. But I made my decision, and will stay as long as I can.”