Written by Zulfick Farzan
26 Nov, 2020 | 12:14 am
Colombo (News 1st); The Lebanese currency lost 81% of its value, and the spread of COVID-19 in March 2020 compounded by one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in the world which hit the Beirut port in August has led to a serious economic crisis.
As a result, the majority of the population can no longer afford to pay for domestic work, which is the primary occupation of Sri Lankans in Lebanon.
The most commonly cited challenge for these workers is the withholding of their wages, the depletion of their savings as most of them have been unemployed or underemployed for a year.
“We are paid in Lira. We cannot send the currency to Sri Lanka. Time is simply passing by for the people trapped here. They have no money and food. They are trapped at their employers homes. Embassy says we have to pay a large sum for facilitating a flight back to Sri Lanka. Because they sent money to Sri Lanka, there are no savings. We urge the government to repatriate these migrants workers, because they sent a lot money as foreign exchange to the country,” said one Migrant Worker currently facing many difficulties in Lebanon.
Migrant workers we spoke to on the condition of anonymity claimed the Sri Lankan Embassy in Lebanon is requesting migrant workers pay 1200 US Dollars to be repatriated.
” They do not accept money here. Someone from Sri Lanka must make the payment of Rs. 120,000/- to a Lebanese Bank named by the Sri Lankan Embassy. We don’t have such money. These terms are dictated by the Sri Lankan Embassy. Someone from Sri Lanka must make the payment and then they give the ok for the ticket and book the flight for the returnee. They only care for the money”, said another migrant worker who did not want to be identified.
Many activist across Lebanon are working towards the immediate repatriation of Sri Lankan Migrant Workers and one such organization is the Anti-Racism Movement – Lebanon.
“Now their money is barely worth anything because of the devaluation of the Lebanese currency and a lot of them have not been receiving their salaries from Lebanese employers. Because everything to travel home is prices in US Dollars, a lot of them are effectively stuck in Lebanon because they simply cannot afford it. which requires urgent and immediate action and intervention by the Sri Lankan Government to systematically help them go home. The conditions are only getting worse by the day in the country. It’s simply not livable for migrant domestic workers”, said Farah Baba from the Anti-Racism Movement – Lebanon.
The travel package of $1,200 USD per person applies to babies and children, placing an incredible burden on families.
Some families are selling their house or land, or going into debt, to be able to repatriate their relatives from Lebanon.
There are around 25,000 Sri Lankans in Lebanon, of which around 7,000 are undocumented.
60 organizations are currently advocating for the safe repatriation of these migrant workers and urge the Sri Lankan Government to send an official request to the Lebanese General Security Ministry for relief on behalf of the migrant workers.
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