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Christian Emigration Report: Lebanon and Syria

  1. Male Migrant Workers
    Starting in 1980, arrivals of daily laborers were observed. Immigrants from Egypt and Syria, principally, enter Lebanon through its porous borders in search of employment. Not unlike those immigrants and refugees who arrived in Lebanon prior to 1980, these immigrants face a variety of problems such as health care, lodging, food, work, etc.
    1. According to the Department of Central Statistics, there are no official statistics concerning the departures and arrivals of Syrians to Lebanon. It is difficult to assess their movements due to their high fluctuations as well as the multiple areas of entry.
    2. In addition to the Syrians, there are also Egyptian daily laborers and laborers from South Asia in Lebanon. Their number cannot be measured accurately, but Lebanon has an agreement with Syria that permits the free movement of Syrian laborers within certain sectors; but the policy towards Egyptians is less liberal. The Egyptians come to Lebanon with a renewable visa for three months hoping to find a good-paying job. They find themselves in an illegal situation and are forced to share houses with 8-10 people. They are throughout Lebanon and work in fuel stations, in supermarkets, as housekeepers, etc.
    3. According to the Ministry of Labor, 75,000 work permits have been issued in 1999, of which 31 percent are for Sri Lankan workers, 25 percent for Egyptians and 15 percent for Ethiopians. The remaining 29 percent are divided mainly between Indians, Filipinos and Sudanese.

  2. Female Migrant Workers
    This category includes women from Sri-Lanka, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Philippines and other Asian and African countries. These persons arrive in Lebanon through agencies. 90 percent have signed a fictitious contract that is changed as soon as they arrive. They suffer from loneliness and uncertainty. A large number of these female migrant workers are abused and they often run away from their employers. Their major problems are:
    1. Bad treatment and abuse by the agencies and employers.
    2. Overload of work, prohibition of going out of the house.
    3. Often accused of robbery; the police are commonly used as a means of threat: police/court rulings are given in a language they are not able to understand.
    4. Difficulty of access to medical care.
    5. Abuse by Lebanese people who trade the immigrants’ permits for payment.
  3. 3. Asylum Seekers

    A large number of Sudanese and Iraqis fled to Lebanon because of war or persecution. They arrive in Lebanon illegally and pay all that they have to enter Lebanon. They hope to find a better life in a democratic country or a reinsertion in another country through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR.

    According to Michel Kassarji, Chaldean Bishop of Beirut, there are between 2,500 and 3,000 Iraqis in Lebanon. More than 90 percent of them entered Lebanon illegally and practically all of them consider Lebanon as a temporary phase from which they move on to Europe (Britain and Switzerland), Canada and Australia. Iraqis enter Lebanon via Syria paying between US $200 to US $300 to the Syrian border police to let them through.

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