AS the economic crisis in Lebanon turns for the worse, more than 1,500 Filipina domestic workers are still waiting for the green light to board planes out of Beirut while the Philippine government negotiates for their departure.
Migrant and recruitment consultant Manny Geslani yesterday said that some 1,500 domestic workers have all signed up for repatriation with the Philippine embassy. However, there is a matter of paying a fine of US$200 for being unregistered for so many years of working in Lebanon.
It was learned that most of these workers are undocumented and have been working in Lebanon for several years and the economic crisis which has hit Lebanon in the past year of 2019 have forced them to leave employers as they were not being paid in US dollars.
Geslani said that there are 34,000 documented OFWs in Lebanon and more than 50,000 more undocumented brought in by illegal recruitment syndicates from 2006 up to 2019 due to a deployment ban imposed by DOLE/POEA after the Israel-Lebanon War in 2006-2007.
It was also gathered that demand for Filipina maids was so high that even planeloads of OFWs were brought in monthly in the past years leading to an undisclosed number of illegal maids working in Lebanon.
The Lebanese pound has lost its value more than 60 percent and the crisis has led to daily demonstrations in major cities of Lebanon.
The maids have to pay the US$200 fine so that they can be issued exit visas even as the Philippine embassy has the funds to fly them out for their plane tickets. However the sheer number of 1,500 maids for repatriation has delayed the process while the embassy has asked the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila to negotiate for an amnesty from the Lebanese government.
Just recently Honorary Consul-General of Lebanon to the Philippines Joseph Assad was summoned by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin III to discuss what measures can be done to bring home the OFWs.
Consul Assad has prepared a letter addressed to Lebanon President Michel Aoun to grant amnesty to these 1,500 OFWs on their immigration penalties through his embassy in Tokyo.
Meanwhile the 1,500 maids in Beirut are working part-time or staying with friends while waiting for their exit visas.
More OFWs are expected to take advantage of the free repatriation offered by the DFA in the coming months as the political situation deteriorates in Lebanon.