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Govt evacuates 2,262 stranded domestic workers from Lebanon

A total of 2,262 Ghanaian domestic workers who were allegedly maltreated and left stranded in Lebanon have been evacuated by the government.

They were brought home by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration (MFARI) in an extensive rescue mission, which was undertaken between June 19 and September18, this year.

The Deputy Minister of MFARI, Mr Charles Owiredu, who briefed the media in Accra yesterday, said to keep the evacuees active, the government would soon enrol them on technical and vocational training programmes.

He recalled that the domestic workers were rescued by the Ghana Embassy in Cairo (Cairo Mission), which currently has jurisdiction over Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan and Palestine.

He said a total of $1,062,600 was spent on the mission by the government with a contribution of $634,150 and $428,450 respectively from Mr Kennedy Agyapong, Member of Parliament for Assin Central and his friends.

He said the money covered travelling expenses of the evacuees, while their quarantine and accommodation were borne by government.

He said the government had so far evacuated 10,000 Ghanaians from countries such as Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and China among others.

He said based on distressed calls from Ghanaians living outside, four groups were created, which were those who could afford their traveling expenses, those who were on government business travels, deportees and those who were distressed.

“We had so many calls coming in from our brothers and sisters living abroad so government tasked MFARI to develop a strategy to be able to bring back our people, hence the development of the four categories,” he said.

Dr Winfred Nii Okai Hammond, Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary to Egypt, Lebanon and Sudan, said some of the evacuees arrived with various illnesses, including nine mentally-ill patients, adding that more than 80 per cent of them had part or all of their accumulated salaries not paid

He said some also had their passports confiscated by their employers and Lebanese agents.

Dr Hammond said most of the victims were recruited from their towns and villages by agents who made false promises, collected monies from them or got them to commit their future initial pay cheques to them.

“Quite a number of them were issued with passports bearing names different from their own names with already acquired visas. Because of our government’s policy in 2017 that such intended domestic migrant workers should not be allowed to travel to Gulf States and the Middle East countries, some of them paid their way through at the Kotoka International Airport, while many of them were smuggled through neighboring countries to fly out to their destinations,” he said.

According to him, majority of such agents have not registered their organisations and that plans had been put in place to track them.

BY AGNES OPOKU SARPONG

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