The economic crisis in Lebanon has greatly affected students living abroad and who still rely to a certain degree on their family’s income. Many of them have resorted to taking part-time jobs in order to be able to pay for their tuition.
The Coronavirus pandemic seemed to have made the problem worse as many of those young Lebanese living in Italy are currently feeling the brunt of Italy’s lockdown.
According to La Stampa, a notable newspaper in Italy, 400 Lebanese students are stuck in Lombardy in a difficult situation, “living on 5 euros a day.”
A 27-year old Lebanese student called Ahmad had already taken up a part-time pizza delivery job in December 2019 in order to be able to sustain himself.
Now, he lost his job as the entire country has been put under lockdown and only supermarkets and pharmacies are open. “The situation is not comfortable. There’s a lot of death every day,” he told The National.
Previously, Ahmad was getting by with the help of his family in Beirut until the capital control measures hit. Transfers from Lebanon to abroad have been made impossible, and Ahmad was left to provide for himself in Italy.
Many countries, like Germany and India, have sent specialized aircraft in order to evacuate their expats from Italy, which is one of the most affected countries in the Coronavirus crisis.
Lebanon didn’t but has allowed its nationals to fly back home from highly affected areas until it banned flights from Italy.
That brought the ambassador of Lebanon to Italy, Mira Daher, to urge Lebanon’s government to evacuate Lebanese students who were conducting courses in Italy, proposing an evacuation in at least two airplanes from Milan and Rome. That didn’t happen.
Lebanon’s consul general in Milan, Khalil Mohamad, said that “We have direct and clear instructions from the Foreign Affairs Ministry to help the students, so it’s our top priority,” although no funds have been sent by the government yet.
The Lebanese diaspora in Italy is reportedly helping each other out in the midst of this critical situation.
Mohammad Kamal, a Lebanese Ph.D. student in Turin, reportedly went on calling about 150 other Lebanese students to see what they need.
Kamal is said to be part of a Crisis Cell that relays information on the conditions of students to the Lebanese consulate in Milan and to the embassy in Rome.
They are currently raising funds from Lebanese donors in Italy and Lebanon for students who are in need. The donations that came in so far allowed 100 students to receive 100 euros each.
Earlier this week, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA) published a letter addressed by Mohammad Kamal on behalf of the students via the NNA office in Rome to Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad.
He described the situation of the students as “financially, logistically, and psychologically” difficult, and the “burden impossible to bear,” urging the Lebanese government to intervene in helping them, “especially that the coronavirus crisis in Italy is going to the worse.”
The National News Agency reported accordingly, saying that Minister Abdel Samad responded via her Twitter account: “I have conveyed the sufferings of the Lebanese students in Italy to the concerned ministers, and I will personally follow up on the matter during the cabinet session tomorrow.”
قمت بنقل معاناة الطلبة اللبنانيين في إيطاليا للوزراء المعنيين، وسأتابع الموضوع شخصياً يوم غد خلال اجتماع مجلس الوزراء حول أبنائنا العالقين في الدول التي اجتاحها كورونا. أدعو لهم بالصحة أينما كانوا وأتمنى عليهم البقاء داخل أماكن إقامتهم. الموضوع #مش_مزحةhttps://t.co/ojbgmGb3AL
— Manal Abdel Samad NAJD Official منال عبد الصمد نجد (@manal_a_samad) March 23, 2020
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Correction – March 29th, 2020:
The title has been amended as the source made amendments to their quotes.
We also initially misquoted Kamal as saying they were living on 5 euros a week which was obtained from linked sources. This was misquoted and has been removed.
At the request of Kamal, we removed the name of his university for privacy reasons.