Beirut, Feb 18 (efe-epa).- The Lebanese government on Thursday announced a plan to vaccinate migrant workers in the country, many of whom are there illegally and are often the victims of abuse by their employers.
Following a meeting of government representatives, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and NGOs, the chairman of the National Committee for Vaccination, Abdelrahman al Bizri, announced a “real, integrated and comprehensive” roadmap for the campaign, according to a statement from the Ministry of Labor.
In the statement, Al Bizri said that because some of the migrants — many of whom are from Ethiopia and the Philippines — reside or work “illegally” in the Mediterranean nation and it is “difficult” to know the exact data, they will start by establishing the people of whom they have “sufficient” information and contacting the embassies of the countries of origin and the IOM.
In 2020, the IOM estimated that there were some 400,000 migrant workers in Lebanon, where the controversial “kafala” migration sponsorship regime is still in place, although it is believed that some would have left the country following the outbreak of the economic crisis in 2019, the pandemic and the August 4 explosion in Beirut.
The second phase of the government’s plan will involve dividing potential vaccine recipients to prioritize those who are most “vulnerable” to the coronavirus, in line with what was dictated for the recently launched general immunization campaign for the entire population, the committee chairman added.
Finally, according to the statement, it is planned to involve the entities that recruit this labor force, among which are a large number of Africans from underdeveloped countries such as Ethiopia, in many cases poor women employed as domestic workers.
Lebanon, with less than 7 million inhabitants and about 1.7 million refugees, received its first 28,500 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last weekend and the following day began its vaccination campaign, starting with health personnel and the elderly. EFE-EPA