The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is continuing to assist stranded migrants in Lebanon to return to their countries of origin as 48 Ethiopian migrants boarded two flights bound for Addis Ababa.
Last month’s twin explosions in the Port of Beirut struck the Lebanese capital amid a worsening economic crisis further compounded by the effects of COVID-19. Before the blast, Lebanon’s currency had plummeted to record lows, depreciating in value by more than 80 per cent since October 2019.
The multi-layered crisis has directly affected marginalized communities, including migrant workers, who were already in distress before the explosion. Many migrant workers in Lebanon now find themselves in an increasingly dire situation with fewer options for safe and dignified work, leaving them unable to afford their rent, food or health care.
As a result, an increasing number wish to return to their home countries. In a recent assessment with migrant workers in Lebanon, IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) found that roughly 70 per cent of those surveyed were making plans to return home in the next three months. An estimated 10,000 migrants had made requests to return to their countries of origin before the blast.
“IOM remains committed to assisting migrants stuck in dire situations throughout Lebanon. In order to meet the rising demand for voluntary return assistance, we require greater solidarity from international donors,” said Fawzi Al-Zioud, IOM Lebanon Head of Office.
“We also commend the efforts of civil society organizations who have mobilized to help these communities in this difficult time,” he added.
IOM conducted protection screening and voluntary return counselling sessions with all migrants assisted to return. They were also provided with legal counselling by the NGO Legal Action Worldwide at a shelter provided by the Ethiopian Consulate in Beirut.
“I’m very happy to be going back to Ethiopia and to finally get the chance to see my mother and siblings,” said one woman before boarding her flight on Thursday morning.
Those who expressed a desire to return were accommodated at a hotel where they underwent pre-embarkation health checks. Those involved PCR tests as part of COVID-19 infection prevention measures. The returnees also participated in travel orientation sessions.
IOM covered all transportation costs to their final destinations in Ethiopia.
IOM’s medical team also conducted a two-day health awareness raising session on COVID-19 and other diseases and provided them with personal protective equipment. Medical escorts accompanied the returning migrants who were all transferred to a quarantine site upon arrival in Addis Ababa.