Hundreds of Ethiopian female migrants who had been stranded for months in Lebanon, will remain stranded indefinitely as flights scheduled to evacuate them this week have been cancelled. They are just a small share of the thousands of Ethiopian workers stuck in the Middle Eastern country due to global travel restrictions prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some 530 migrants seeking repatriation had expected to board government chartered Ethiopian Airlines flights home. Evacuation flights had been cancelled due to Covid-19 fears and a dearth of mandatory quarantine space in Addis Ababa, according to an Ethiopian government official, who spoke on conditions of anonymity as they didn’t have authorization.
The would-be passengers had left Ethiopia to find work in Lebanon as live-in domestic workers. There are an estimated 150,000 Ethiopian women in Lebanon, most having flocked there in search of jobs that pay as little as $150 a month. The trend, which started in the 1990s, has enabled remittances as a vital source of income for impoverished families in Ethiopia.
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But since late 2019, Lebanon’s economic woes has seen the Lebanese pound lose half of its original value, while the country eventually defaulted on its external debts. Domestic workers were laid off en masse, or had their salaries withheld.
Unemployed, out of money and with little prospects in a country now struggling to contain Covid-19 infections, Ethiopian women have sought to escape Lebanon for some eight months now. The first of them were scheduled to depart from Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport yesterday. The second flight was to leave today.