Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti has been seeking to find solutions to the Lebanese expatriates; mostly students, who couldn’t return to Lebanon before the closure of Rafik Hariri International Airport. This comes as part of the measures announced by the authorities to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
A large number of expatriates, particularly those living in Dubai, Italy and Turkey, have resorted to social media to plead with the authorities to bring them back home or facilitate bank transfers so that their families could send them their allowances.
Lebanese banks have been enforcing harsh and informal capital controls on money transfers and withdrawals since October.
The social media campaign embarrassed ambassadors and consulates accused of failing to fulfill their responsibilities.
Since March 19; Lebanon is under lockdown and its land borders, seaports and airport will not work until April 12.
Hitti held this week extensive meetings with several Foreign Ministry committees to tackle the problem of expatriates wishing to return home. They also discussed the means to secure bank transfers abroad or increase the limits for USD cash withdrawals from ATMs.
Forming a committee to manage the crisis
Hitti sent his plan to the cabinet; which decided to form a committee representing the foreign, finance, health and information ministries to discuss their next steps.
Lebanese expatriates are mainly based in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Many of them were not allowed to return home after failing to take the required tests for the coronavirus.
On Thursday, Hitti told MTV that they will only allow Lebanese stuck abroad to return on special fights if their tests for the coronavirus come negative.
In its daily report on the COVID-19 disease, the Lebanese health ministry said Friday that the number of laboratory-confirmed cases at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital and other accredited university hospital laboratories, in addition to private laboratories, in the past 24 hours has reached 391, marking an increase of 23 cases.
It said a coronavirus patient in his eighties, suffering from chronic diseases, died at the Saint George University Hospital.