LT24::Thousands of Bangladeshis in Lebanon have been desperate about returning home for the last few months.
At least five were wounded and hospitalised after police baton-charged a demonstration staged by migrant Bangladeshi workers before the Bangladesh embassy in Beirut on Monday.
“We were beaten by Lebanese police following directives by the Bangladesh embassy officials,” the migrants claimed through a social media appeal.
In a video clip posted on the ‘Lebanon Probasi Bangladeshi’ Facebook group page, a Bangladeshi migrant worker said, “We have not had sufficient income for the last one and a half years. Many of us are jobless and struggling to return home. But our embassy has failed to arrange our long-awaited journey home.”
He said, “Contacting the embassy, we have been demanding exit passes since long. Officials of the Bangladesh embassy demanded $400 for tickets from each of us, but we do not have any money.”
“We want the intervention of the government of Bangladesh to return home. But after we came to negotiate our demand with the embassy officials, they did not pay heed to our call. Instead, they instigated the police to beat us,” the frustrated migrant alleged.
The migrant said they formed a human chain in front of the Bangladesh Embassy in Beirut on Monday demanding exit passes to return home.
“We have been in great trouble for more than one year here in the Lebanon. The embassies of different countries are creating opportunities and giving ticket costs for their citizens to leave the country. But our embassy has done nothing for us,” said another Bangladeshi migrant in the video. He too had joined the human chain.
According to the migrants, the Lebanese labour market is volatile due to long-time political and economic instability and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The crisis deepened more after the change of government in the Mediterranean country following the massive Beirut blast in August.
For this reason, Bangladeshi migrants are not being able to earn adequately. They can hardly live from hand to mouth, let alone sending money to their near and dear ones in their motherland, according to sources.
They said that at present, about one lakh expatriate Bangladeshis are living in extremely inhuman conditions in Lebanon. They cannot come back to the country due to their financial crises and exorbitant ticket prices. That is why the expatriates are seeking government assistance to return to the country through the Bangladesh embassy.
TBS repeatedly tried to contact Abdullah Al Mamun, first secretary at the Bangladesh embassy in Beirut, but he did not receive the phone or reply to the text message query.
According to an unofficial estimate, around 1.5 lakh Bangladeshi expatriates work in Lebanon. Most of them are cleaners and housemaids. Around 30,000 are undocumented, according to the estimate.
Earlier last week too, the migrants demonstrated before the embassy demanding repatriation. On condition of anonymity, an official of the Bangladesh embassy in Beirut told TBS at the time, “Earlier, we started registering migrants wishing to return to the country. But the initiative was suspended as it was a complicated process. And the onset of the pandemic jeopardised the whole repatriation arrangements totally.”
“However, we have heard the demand of the demonstrating migrants and informed the expatriate welfare ministry about the issue. We will take action according to the guidelines of the ministry,” he added.
The Lebanese economy had been in bad shape since even before the pandemic.
There have been plenty of financial miseries in Lebanon for the last one year, which got intensified amid the coronavirus pandemic, leaving thousands of Bangladeshi expatriates jobless in the West Asian country.
The coronavirus pandemic did not spark the financial crisis for the Lebanese economy. In fact, the country has been sliding deeper into trouble since October last year.
The economy started to buckle under the weight of decades of unfettered corruption, unsustainable fiscal policies, the war next door in Syria, and a slump in vital remittances from abroad, reports the Qatar-based Al Jazeera.
Last August, First Secretary Abdullah Al Mamun told TBS, “Tourism and remittance are the main sources of foreign currency in Lebanon. But both have slumped in recent months, devaluing the local currency. Besides, there is a huge gap between export and import.”
“Foreign workers are usually paid in US dollars, but now they are getting wages in Lebanese pound which is highly devalued,” the first secretary said.
Mamun said employers were paying employees in line with the previous rate.”So, when migrants want to send money to Bangladesh, they have to buy dollars at a higher rate. It means they are sending much less than before,” he explained.