A group of 18 Bangladeshi migrants who had been stranded in Lebanon arrived in Dhaka from Beirut on Friday.
The stranded migrants returned home through the facilitation of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in close coordination with the governments of Bangladesh and Lebanon, says a press release.
According to the press release, prior to departure, the migrants underwent health checks including PCR tests, were offered pre-departure transportation assistance and counselling services, and were screened for underlying protection vulnerabilities by IOM in Lebanon. They were also provided with post-arrival reception assistance in Bangladesh and will receive reintegration support.
"Living in Lebanon has been extremely difficult as we are not able to meet basic needs, nor support our families back home," said one of the returned migrants.
"Migrants in Lebanon need support to survive and return to their country of origin. I am grateful to IOM for arranging my return to Bangladesh," he added.
This return of vulnerable migrants is part of a coordinated effort from the Bali Process, through its Voluntary Returns Support and Reintegration Assistance Programme, and IOM's Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions (COMPASS) initiative funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, to support and protect stranded migrants, particularly against human trafficking and smuggling.
A recent IOM survey of more than 1,000 migrants in Lebanon showed that nearly half of them wanted to return home. With the economy in deep crisis and a political stalemate after the government resigned following the devastating Beirut Port explosion a year ago, embassies have also seen a sharp rise in the number of migrants asking to return to their countries of origin.
The results of the IOM survey showed that many migrants have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to the impact of concurrent crises in Lebanon. Moreover, an increase in exploitative practices such as non-payment of wages, unfair dismissal, or breach of contracts by employers, have subjected migrants to greater hardship.
"Many migrants are reaching out to IOM for help. They have lost their jobs. They are hungry, they cannot access medical care, and feel unsafe. Many are so desperate that they want to leave the country, but they do not have the means to do so," said Mathieu Luciano, Head of IOM in Lebanon.
"There is a clear need to rapidly scale up IOM's emergency programmes, including voluntary humanitarian return," he added.
"The economic crisis coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the vulnerabilities of Bangladeshi migrants in Lebanon," said Giorgi Gigauri, IOM Bangladesh's Chief of Mission. "We will continue to work with the relevant governments, donors, and partners whose efforts are highly appreciated to facilitate voluntary return and reintegration of migrants in vulnerable situations," he added.
"IOM initiated voluntary return support to Bangladeshi migrants from Lebanon after the Beirut port explosion," said Abdullah Al Mamun, Counsellor (Labour) and Head of Chancery at the Embassy of Bangladesh in Beirut. "The Embassy of Bangladesh in Beirut extends its gratitude to IOM and emphasizes the importance of partnership and cooperation to facilitate the return of more people in need," he concluded.