Lebanon has seen waves of emigration as a consequence of uncertainty and war throughout its history, leaving more of its nationals living outside the country than within it. The current crisis, which is widely seen as the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the civil war (1975 – 1990), has now left one in three Lebanese wanting to leave the country for good. The rise in the number of young, educated and talented people turning their backs on their country, in search of better prospects abroad, has had a huge impact on the country’s economic growth. Decades of conflict has led to a dire situation and caused unemployment rates to skyrocket.
One month since the Beirut port explosion, people feel ever more hopeless.
Twenty-nine-year-old Joelle Haddad was born in the United Kingdom to Lebanese parents in 1991. Since then she has moved to Lebanon twice and lived there with her family for more than ten years, experiencing several wars and the collapse of the economy.
“My whole life, I’m adjusting, getting used to it, then re-adjusting and getting used to it,” she told MEMO.
The painful reality of not residing in her native country compelled her parents to keep trying to adjust to what their idea of Lebanon once was. Reaching an age where she felt her future was unclear, and eager to escape, she was lucky enough to decide to come back to the UK and bring her family with her in 2015.
Joelle fell in love with a man from Lebanon who could not leave the country as easy. They got married in February 2020 in Cyprus and since then she has been living in London waiting for him to get his visa approved.
Six months later, there were tears of joy when he called to say his application had been accepted and he was ready to book a one-way ticket to London. A few days later, on 4 August, a massive blast rocked Beirut, leaving nearly 200 dead, 5,000 injured and 300,000 people homeless.
“My newsfeed, up until this day has been bloodbath, after bloodbath. People who I know are just shattered,” Joelle explains.
The diaspora communities have been rushing to help, organising donations and fundraisers as many feel helpless at not being on the ground in the aftermath of the explosion. But for those in Beirut, it’s been a wake-up call to escape, they pinpoint government negligence as the reason why 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate was stored unsafely at Beirut port for six years, until it suddenly blew up. With more than half of the population now living in poverty, it’s no wonder scores of the Lebanese youth can confidently say “I’m never coming back”.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.