With the intensification of the economic, political and social crises in Lebanon, several research institutions called to issue studies on the high rates of immigration in the country, especially among young people. One of those institutions indicated that about 230 thousand emigrated during the past four months, which is a huge number when compared to the population.
“When I got married 12 years ago, my dreams and ambitions were all linked to Lebanon. I dreamed of building a happy family, developing my business, and securing a decent life for my children, like any head of a normal family anywhere in the world. But it seems that even those natural and basic dreams are forbidden to us in Lebanon.” With this phrase, 42-year-old Ali begins his justification for the idea of emigrating from his homeland to another place he did not specify, “Any country I can feel safe in only, safety for my daughters and my wife. I do not want to fall asleep daily on nightmares of clashes, and wake up to the screams of politicians and the horror of the banks’ control over the misery of my life.”
Ali, like other thousands of Lebanese, is thinking of emigrating to another country, after the continuous deterioration of living conditions in Lebanon and the worsening of its economic, social and political crises.
The recent armed clashes that took place in the Tayouneh area (south of Beirut), revived the ghosts of civil war in the hearts of those who lived through it, old and young, and pushed the majority of them to work very seriously to migrate far away, either to achieve a better life or to search for a real future for their children.
Lamia, a resident of the Badaro area, adjacent to Tayouneh, told Muhajir News part of her memories of the civil war she experienced as a child, “I woke up on the day of the clashes to the sound of my mobile phone, friends of mine were advising me to leave the area immediately. I did not know what was going on and had not been following the news for a while. I started browsing social networking sites, which were pages and publications from the civil war, but dated today. I felt terrified and the first thing that came to my mind was my children.”
She adds, “My husband had dropped the boys at school in the morning before he went to work. I got dressed and collected my basic things, official papers, jewelry and some money, and put them all in a bag and went out of the house. I didn’t think much, I think that this reaction stuck me in my subconscious as it was “My mother does this every time there are clashes near our house. Time can’t keep up with me and I start hearing the sounds of bullets and shells.”
As for Ali, who lives in the Shiyah area, where the clashes later spread, he said, “The moment the clashes erupted, I embraced my daughters and my wife, I, and I sat in the corridor. I was trying to distract them from the sounds of bullets until a picture from my childhood flashed in my memory. My mother used to sit me at this very point during The Civil War When the clashes occurred, I could not contain myself and burst into tears. I did not care about following the news or the end of the clashes, that evening I packed the essentials bag, which contained official papers, my wife’s letter and some money, I decided that emigration was the only way. Today I am preparing to go to Cyprus.
Beirut witnessed armed clashes in the middle of this month against the background of investigations into the explosion of the Port of Beirut and the sharp political division between political and sectarian parties and leaders, in light of a severe economic crisis that the World Bank classified as “the most fierce since the mid-nineteenth century.”
230 thousand emigrated in 4 months!
The above is part of the speech of many Lebanese who have lost hope of achieving a decent life in their country, so emigration has become their only option in search of a better life.
Statistics and figures published by research houses and institutions in Lebanon show the comprehensiveness of this option among large segments of the Lebanese. The Labora Foundation, which monitors the problems of poverty and unemployment in Lebanon, reported that about 230,000 citizens emigrated during the first four months of this year.
Father Tony Khadra, head of the foundation, said in a statement to the private radio station “Voice of Lebanon” that “the sectarian factor is at the forefront of the reasons for the escalation of Lebanese emigration.”
And he stated that “90% of the Lebanese holding foreign nationalities left Lebanon last September, with the aim of emigrating outside the country.”
Khadra emphasized that the emigration also affected the business and trade sector, as there is a large group of people who have moved their businesses outside Lebanon due to the lack of basic needs such as electricity and water and the lack of security, in addition to the money and banking crisis.
77% of young people in Lebanon are considering emigrating
The Crisis Observatory, a research institute affiliated with the American University of Beirut, published a report this month in which it spoke of what it described as the “third wave of immigration,” with the noticeable rise in immigration rates and those seeking it for months.
According to the report, Lebanon witnessed two previous waves, the first in the late 19th century until World War I (1865-1916), during which about 330,000 people immigrated. The second wave was during the civil war (1975-1990), which recorded the emigration of about 990 thousand people.
The report mentioned three “worrying” indicators about the third wave, the first of which is the high desire to emigrate among Lebanese youth, as it indicated that 77% of them think and seek to emigrate, and this percentage is the highest among all Arab countries, according to the “Arab Youth Opinion Survey” report issued last year.
The World Bank estimates that unemployment affects one in five people in Lebanon, and that 61% of companies have reduced their permanent employees by an average of 43%.
The second indicator is the migration of talent and professionals, especially workers in the health and education sectors.
The Nurses’ Syndicate had issued estimates stating that 1,600 nurses have emigrated since 2019. Hundreds of teachers and academics have also emigrated, as the American University of Beirut alone recorded the departure of 190 professors within one year, constituting about 15% of its educational body.
The third indicator is the expectation of the length of the Lebanese crisis. The World Bank estimates that Lebanon needs 12 years, at best, to return to the levels of GDP that were in 2017, and at worst to 19 years.
74% of the population of Lebanon suffers from poverty
The economic crisis in Lebanon is exacerbated by the collapse of the value of salaries in the local currency, the pound, where the exchange rate of one dollar is equal to 20 thousand Lebanese pounds, while the minimum wage is now around 30 dollars per month. On the other hand, the prices of commodities and foodstuffs rose dramatically to cross the 600% barrier.
According to the statistics of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), the poverty rate in Lebanon doubled from 28% in 2019 to 55% until May 2020. The extreme poverty rate also increased from 8% to 23%.
These percentages are very close to the estimates of the World Bank, which indicated that until mid-2020, the poverty rate in Lebanon was 52%.
And the United Nations announced in a research study – issued last September, that 74% of the population of Lebanon suffers from poverty in 2021, while there are no official statistics on the percentage of immigration in Lebanon.
Lebanon is witnessing the worst economic crisis in its history, coinciding with the scarcity of the dollar, the loss of the local currency, more than half of its value, high rates of inflation, poverty and unemployment, as well as the scarcity of fuel and power and water cuts for most hours of the day.
Researchers have repeatedly warned of the repercussions of economic and political instability in Lebanon on the waves of youth migration, which in turn may threaten the future of a country of about 4 million and about 16 million living outside it.