Lebanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Houssam Diab, said yesterday that contrary to popular assumption, most Nigerians, especially ladies in Lebanon, were not trafficked but entered the country legally.
By Vincent Ikuomola, Abuja
Diab on a visit to Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama in Abuja said the Nigerian ladies who recently called for help in viral videos were stranded in Lebanon because they could no longer be paid by their employees as a result of the recent economic downturn in the country.
The envoy said the suspension of the issuance of visas to domestic workers since May had also contributed to the situation.
He said: “As of May 1, the Lebanese government has stopped issuing visas for domestic workers coming from Nigeria.
“This will definitely stop any new cases from arising; they will not be able to get into Lebanon, the specificity for the issue at Lebanon is that all these girls are entering into Lebanon legally.
“There is no human trafficking illegally into Lebanon.
“About 90 per cent of the agencies involved in it are Nigerian agencies and they apply through Lebanese agencies in Lebanon through the security general to acquire work visas and work permits for the ladies.
“This is how it is; so by stopping the issuing of the visas, we would have stopped new cases from arising.”
He noted that out of the estimated 5,000 Nigerians living in Lebanon, majority of them were gainfully employed.
Diab said the Lebanese government and the Nigerian government had successfully evacuated 500 Nigerian ladies from Lebanon with 200 more to be evacuated soonest.
He noted that the evacuation further showed the strong bilateral relations between the two countries, in spite of the recent explosion in Lebanon.
Onyeama appreciated the Lebanese government and the Lebanese community in Nigeria for their efforts in facilitating the return of the stranded Nigerian girls.
According to the minister, the temporary ban on visa issuance will give Nigeria time to review the whole situation and to ensure that we get our labour laws in place.
“As we battle with the strong involvement of the Embassy in Beirut, the immediate challenge was to repatriate these girls and we would like to offer our profound gratitude to the Lebanese community for their efforts to make available resources to bring these girls back and bring them back fairly quickly.
“We appreciate that enormously because it was a challenge to bring them back.
“The resources were not there and you very kindly have stepped in and that shows we have a long history between Nigeria and Lebanese communities,” Onyeama said.