Bangladeshi workers in Lebanon are going through a tough time due to the political and economic turbulence the Middle Eastern country has been facing for quite a while.
“The Lebanese economy is now in crisis. Many businesses are closing, while many are not doing well, resulting in a loss of jobs for Bangladeshi workers,” Abdul Motaleb Sarker, Bangladesh ambassador to Lebanon, told Dhaka Tribune from Beirut on Wednesday.
“The political situation is yet to be stabilized. There was no effective government in Lebanon from October last year till the end of January this year. That also made things worse for our people in this country,” he further added.
There are approximately 170,000 Bangladesh nationals working in Lebanon. Of them, nearly 100,000 are working there as domestic help.
Meanwhile, about 15,000 Bangladeshi workers, mostly women, are irregular and waiting to get exit passes from the Bangladesh embassy in order to leave Lebanon.
The process of exiting the country for those without legal status is complicated and time-consuming, the ambassador said.
“The irregular Bangladeshis will first have to register with the embassy. Then the names will be sent to the General Security Department [in Lebanon] for clearance. Before issuing clearance, this department follows some procedures that include checking if there are any criminal records against the names they receive from the embassy,” the ambassador said.
“To make matter worse, the General Security Department does not take any list with more than 100 names at a time, and it takes them two to three months to give the clearance,” he added.
Motaleb Sarker said the embassy had initiated the process of registering people, and so far more than 4,000 have registered with the embassy.
“We registered 500 people a day; with the limited manpower, we cannot do more. We also requested our fellow citizens not to crowd outside the chancery building. But they came in large number and created a chaotic situation outside the embassy, prompting the owner of the building to issue two legal notices to vacate the property,” he said.
“As a result, we had to suspend the registration program until we could find a suitable park or a stadium,” the ambassador added.
Asked how long it might take for the irregular Bangladeshis to get exit passes, also called OTP (one-time passes), Motaleb said: “We had a meeting with the authorities concerned yesterday [Tuesday]. They assured us of expediting the process of clearing the names and said they would get back to us within 72 hours.”
Despite repeated attempts, Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed could not be reached for a comment. A text message sent to him was not replied to. Salim Reza, secretary of the ministry, is currently abroad.
Expat ministry unaware of exit pass issue
Dr Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, additional secretary (migrant welfare wing) at the Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, said: “It is usual that there will be job losses in some countries, while there will be new jobs in other countries.”
Responding to a question, he said: “The ambassador is the guardian regarding the affairs related to the welfare of Bangladeshis in Lebanon. So what he said should be right.”
About the suspension of the registration of irregular Bangladeshis, Saleheen as well as his colleague, Additional Secretary (monitoring and enforcement) Shabiha Pervin, said they were not aware of the issue.
Salim Mollah, general manager (employment) at Bangladesh Overseas and Employment and Employment and Services Ltd, the government-run overseas recruitment agency, said: “During my tenure of two and a half years [at the agency], no Bangladeshi was recruited for Lebanon through us.”
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen are currently with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on her visit to Italy.
Repeated attempts were made to reach State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, without any success.
However, two senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs admitted that the job market for Bangladeshis in Lebanon is in a bad state.
– Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan, Dhaka tribune