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Dire Economic Situation Forcing Lebanese to Flee Their Country
Members of the Abi Haidar family depart from Lebanon's Beirut International Airport on Sept. 2, 2021, on their way to Cyprus. (Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images)

Dire Economic Situation Forcing Lebanese to Flee Their Country

One of world’s worst financial crises in 150 years has left skyrocketing unemployment, inflation, fuel shortages, and currency devaluation in its wake

Thousands of Lebanese are fleeing to the tiny island nation of Cyprus to escape the worst economic crisis in their country’s recent history, and in search of a safe haven and the promise of a better future.

For Lebanese, not a day goes by without their having to spend long hours in line waiting for fuel or in the scorching summer heat without electricity, and to top it off, the country is dealing with a deep shortage of medicine.

“I decided to leave Lebanon because there is no longer a reason for me to stay,” said 26-year-old businessman Fadi Sa’adi.

Sa’adi left with his wife and three children, who are between 1 and 9 years old. He told The Media Line that, as a father, he had a responsibility toward his family.

“I hope we’ll find in Cyprus a place where we can live in dignity. That is all we want. There’s no future here anymore.”

Sa’adi, who owns a restaurant in the capital, Beirut, says that it has become impossible to run his business without electricity or fuel and in the absence of tourism.

The flight from Beirut to Larnaca does not exceed half an hour.

“It is not easy for a person to leave his country and extended family and move to a country where you do not know anyone. But I feel I was forced to do so,” explains Sa’adi, who adds that if anyone asked him when he opened his restaurant five years ago if he’d leave Lebanon, his answer would have been an emphatic no.

Maryan Abo Naja left with her husband for Cyprus last month. She told The Media Line that life in Lebanon had become “unbearable.”

“We got married a year ago, we have a baby, and my husband lost his job at a pharmacy. Our goal is to go to Europe somewhere.”

Abo Naja says the situation became so bad, they couldn’t find formula to feed their baby.

Despite the absence of official statistics on the number of departures due to the difficult economic conditions, they are estimated in the thousands.

New Prime Minister Najib Mikati and his 24-member cabinet have their work – lifting the country out of economic and political collapse – cut out for them.

The World Bank has called the country’s financial crisis one of the world’s worst since the mid-19th century.

The cash-strapped coastal country, which relies heavily on tourism and remittance from expats, is facing a dire economic crisis. The Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value against the dollar on the black market, unemployment has skyrocketed, inflation has soared, and fuel prices have shot up.

With foreign currency reserves plummeting, the country has been struggling to maintain subsidies on basic goods.

One of the largest population centers for Lebanese outside their country is in Dearborn, Michigan; that’s where Zakaria Abdallah is hoping to land soon.

Abdallah told The Media Line that he graduated from university three years ago and still hasn’t found a job.

“My brother lives there; he needs help in his bakery and I’m available. It’s been very hard to find a job here.”

Abdallah says his brother sends money when he can, but it hasn’t been easy to access the money because of bank restrictions, and products have become very expensive.

“A lot of goods are missing from the market. Only the very rich get what they need. I want to build my own future and help my family, too. I can’t do it here.”

The country’s economic and financial crisis erupted in late 2019. The catastrophic financial depression has driven more than half of the country’s 6.8 million people into poverty. Many don’t have access to their savings, which are trapped in banks, forcing wealthy and middle-class Lebanese to flee the country.

Lebanon has been plagued by government corruption and mismanagement for decades.

Lebanon’s economic misery was accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, along with the devastating explosion at Beirut’s port last year. The massive blast ravaged whole neighborhoods in the capital, leaving at least 218 people dead, 7,000 injured, an estimated 300,000 homeless, and $15 billion in property damage.

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