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'We've Lost Our Country': Lebanese Flee Imploding Economy

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BEIRUT—Lebanon’s multiple crises, compounded by the massive explosion at the Beirut port in August, have plunged the middle class into poverty and the poor into destitution, driving some to leave the country and those who remain to struggle for a way to survive.

Lebanese have long moved abroad in times of crisis, sending home billions in remittances that helped keep this tiny Mediterranean country afloat. Now, a new exodus is under way.

Peter Ingea said his company, Intermove, had been packing up homes of Lebanese moving abroad at a rate of one to two a day since the Aug. 4 explosion, compared with just one to two a week over the same period last year. “We haven’t stopped,” he said. Nearly all his clients have dual nationality or money abroad. For others, bailing out is more difficult, especially when the coronavirus pandemic has hardened borders.

The agency responsible for securing Lebanon’s borders recently uncovered a network at Beirut’s airport that was smuggling people to Spain.

The most desperate are piling into boats bound for Cyprus—a perilous voyage by sea that until this year was a last resort for refugees fleeing war in neighboring Syria. According to the United Nations, 30 migrant boats departed Lebanon for Cyprus between July and October. While the majority of the passengers were Syrians, Lebanese were the second-largest group.

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