According to observers, Lebanon is in front of a new crisis added to its political and economic crises. The losses this time will not be compensable in the short term and will leave resounding repercussions in society for many coming years, which may threaten the country with a bleak future.
Although leaning towards emigration has always been one of the most prominent features of Lebanese society throughout history, Lebanon is currently preparing for a new wave of emigration that comes as one of the repercussions of the worst economic crisis in Lebanese history, and the most complex globally, according to what the World Bank confirms.
This wave has begun to have clear features on various institutions and sectors, and it is best depicted publicly in the long waiting queues for thousands of citizens, moving between centers for obtaining passports and places for clearing papers and transactions. It is the same in front of embassies, which some of its appointments have become postponed to 2022 due to the volume of requests. This state of eagerness to emigrate can be seen in the airport, which is filled with daily departures, and the death boats that began transporting the Lebanese to Europe.
Alarming Signs Pointing to Catastrophe
On this phenomenon, the Crisis Observatory at Lebanon’s American University of Beirut has prepared a report that monitors what it described as the “third mass exodus.” The report has concluded that the country is entering a third mass exodus wave of emigration. According to the report, for months, Lebanon has witnessed a noticeable rise in the rates of emigration and those seeking it. The observatory warns of the long-term consequences of the emigration for Lebanon’s fate.
The observatory has mentioned three internal worrying indicators regarding Lebanon’s entry into a mass emigration wave, which is expected to go on for years. The first one is the high chances of emigration among Lebanese youth, as 77 percent of them indicated that they think about emigrating and seek it, and this percentage is the highest among all Arab countries, according to the “Arab Youth Opinion Survey” report issued last year.
Going after emigration by most of the Lebanese youth has come as result of the declining decent job opportunities. The World Bank estimates that one out of every five people has lost their job since the fall of 2019, and that 61 percent of companies in Lebanon have reduced their permanent employees by an average of 43 percent.
The second indicator of the observatory is the enormous migration of specialists and professionals, especially male and female doctors and nurses who works in the health sector. As for the educational sector, including university, professors and teachers are emigrating in quest of better work conditions and income. For instance, the Nurses Syndicate estimated that 1,600 male and female nurses have emigrated since 2019. Furthermore, hundreds of staffs of the educational body have emigrated to the Gulf States and North America. At the American University of Beirut alone, 190 emigrant professors were registered during a year of departure, constituting roughly 15 percent of the educational body.
The third indicator is that the crisis in Lebanon is expected to be an extended crisis. The World Bank estimates that Lebanon will need at best 12 years to return to GDP levels that were in 2017, and in the worst case, 19 years is needed. With the absence of a political decision for a real approach to the Lebanese crisis, which suggests a deliberate collapse, it is possible that state institutions will evaporate more and more and fall into a deadly spiral that extends for two decades. This would account for a pressure factor for hundreds of thousands to leave their homeland seeking out investment, work, study and retirement.
The Lebanese people preparations to leave can be seen through the crowding at the Lebanese General Security offices, whose statistics showed that the number of passports issued from the beginning of 2021 until the end of August amounted to about 260 thousand passports, compared to almost 142 thousand passports during the same period in 2020. That is an increase of 82 percent. The categories of these issued passports are from the longest-term categories, i.e., the ten- and five-year category. While categories with a shorter time-period have been in decline, such as the one-year category or the three-year category.
LONG TERM EFFECTS
Khalil Al-Akari, Political science researcher, believes that the third emigration crisis will be reflected in Lebanon for a long time, as it will make the country lose the creative and professional element that is capable of managing and advancing sectors. This crisis will deprive these sectors of their advantages and progress, at which the human element is mainly represented. Al-Akari points out that Lebanon will lose basic sectors that represent the country’s economic leverage, such as the health, banking, educational and technological sectors. As for the newly graduates, they also have to leave in search of opportunities abroad as there is none internally even though they are the engines of the economy.
In addition, “the emigration wave will open the door for militias, drug and arms dealers, and fuel smugglers to take over Lebanon economically,” Al-Akari says.
He draws attention that that this will have a profound impact on the political situation as well, because the middle class and the youth are the engine of positive democratic change anywhere in the world, and the migration of these groups will affect the ability to prompt the desired political change in Lebanon. This would mean that the country will be living under the domination of militias, especially in the absence of the state’s security and police services.
Hezbollah Drives it up
Brigadier-general Mohammed Fahmi, the Minister of Interior in the Lebanese caretaker government, announced yesterday, Monday, the high rate of police components escaping from the internal security forces due to the pressures of living and under the weight of needing to search for additional sources of livelihood. The Minister notes that the security and military institutions constitute the last line for defending the state and, therefore, they must be immunized by all possible means.
Al-Akari confirms that many of the fugitives from the internal security corps have taken refuge in Europe through death boats, which have recently returned to be strongly active with the support and facilitation of Hezbollah militias. Al-Akari opines that the party seeks by weakening the Lebanese security forces to impose its influence on Lebanon, and to avoid inspections carried out by the army and security against smugglers of fuel and drugs.
“Illegal emigration is an old phenomenon, but its renewal raises questions and hypotheses about Lebanese people fate in light of the economic hardship that has been here for more than a year,” Al-Akari says. He considers what has been happening as facilitation to the Lebanese people to leave their country through illegal boats, as the displaced Syrians used to do for a time. “When an emigrant puts his life at risk, how desperate is he then?” he wonders.
Al-Akari concludes by emphasizing that some countries punish the Lebanese and charge them for Hezbollah militias’ actions, which sits not only on the chairs of power and control, but also on all the Lebanese people’s backs.
“If Hezbollah continues to link Lebanon fate with its weapons, then we are coming either to the emigration of the remaining Christians and free Lebanese, or to partition,” Dr. Salim Al-Sayegh, the deputy head of the Kataeb party, warned.
“If Hezbollah continues to link its fate and Lebanon’s fate with its weapons, we are coming either to the emigration of the remaining Christians and free Lebanese, or to partition and the end of Greater Lebanon, and we are neither working or wanting any of those matters,” Al-Sayegh said, during a meeting called by the Lebanese Phalange Division in the town of Daroun in Kesrouan to discuss how to respond to people’s concerns and face national challenges.