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French Version


Hefty costs limit flow of emigrants

The constant flow of Lebanon's skilled labor force to other countries in search of economic opportunities - approximately 62 percent of emigrants cite work as their motive according to the UN - is both a cause and effect of the stagnant local economy.

Mohammad Kanaan, who fields immigration applications for the Canadian immigration law firm CILA, said he noticed an increase in prospective emigrants months ago, especially among youth, who account for about 90 percent of his clientele.

Twenty-four of Kanaan's clients have been approved for Canadian visas in 2006-all of whom are now in the beginning phases of immigration.

"Lebanon is a great place, and you can invest money here now but people are afraid about their future," he told The Daily Star on the sidelines of the Investment and Investor immigration opportunities in Canada conference at the Habtoor Grand Hotel Wednesday.

"It's mostly kids who finish school and can't find a job that want to go to Canada. We have some interest from middle-aged men, but they want to relax."

The president of FWMC, one of the events' sponsors along with the Canadian immigration authorities, argued his case for "why Canada is a great place to live, work, and raise children," focusing on its attractive investment climate and giving a presentation on the immigration process.

"Why Canada?" John J. Firmino asked 30-odd, well-heeled attendees. It is both "pro-business and pro-individual."

One audience member who preferred to remain anonymous due to his friendship with the events' organizers said 250 people were invited, but the less than spectacular turnout belies the significance of Lebanon's diaspora condition.

Since one of the preconditions for a visa application is $30,000 in the bank, the immigration option is by no means accessible to the majority of the population. That the three visa options - student, skilled worker, and sponsorship - cost $3,000, $3,500, and 5,500 respectively further limits the pool of potential emigrants.

Despite the lack of reliable statistics, the UN estimates that about 100,000 Lebanese citizens per year move abroad in search of economic opportunities. The majority are educated males between 20 and 29, depriving the local economy of a large portion of the skilled workforce. There are 250,000 Lebanese residents in Canada according to 2004 official government statistics.

Beyrouth 31-05-2006
Lysandra Ohrstrom
The Daily Star



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