Lebanese Gov’t to Return Expats Stranded Abroad
Threats made by the Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri worked in resolving the issue of returning Lebanese expats home, as an emergency ministerial meeting was held, headed by Prime Minister Hassan Diab to finalize the evacuation mechanisms.
Berri threatened on Saturday to suspend his support for Prime Minister Hassan Diab's government if it did not act to bring home expatriates stranded abroad during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the decision on repatriating citizens to Lebanon on board was made Saturday through arranged flights, but the execution mechanisms will be announced on Tuesday after the cabinet meeting on the coronavirus crisis is concluded.
Diab had stressed that the government supports the return of all expats who wish to do so, especially after it was proven that the measures taken by the government have gained internal and foreign confidence, and have proven their effectiveness.
He reiterated his previous position by emphasizing on “safety”, saying that the Health Minister alongside the designated emergency committee are preparing for an appropriate mechanism for a safe return.
He added that the mechanism, which include screening those willing to return for COVID-19, will go into effect as soon as the required equipment and materials are secured.
Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti said on Thursday that Lebanese citizens abroad must undergo a test to make sure they are not carrying coronavirus before boarding a flight home.
Hitti told Asharq Al-Awsat that repatriating expats to Lebanon is the prerogative of cabinet, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is simply implementing the decisions taken by the cabinet, as is the case of other ministries.
He revealed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently completing data collection on the situation of Lebanese expatriates in order to take appropriate measures when cabinet decides on what to do.
Hitti pointed out that his ministry, through Lebanese missions abroad, is currently following up the situation of expats stranded abroad, and providing assistance when needed, especially to students.