IOM Study Investigates Irregular Migration Among Lebanese Nationals

Beirut – A recent research conducted by International Organization for Migration (IOM) during February and March 2023, shows that out of 954 Lebanese nationals surveyed, more than 78 per cent said they were considering leaving Lebanon, and one quarter said they were also willing to consider migrating irregularly.  

Economic hardship, conflict, and unmet basic needs, like access to healthcare and education for children, were cited as key factors driving these decisions.  

The study, titled: “Lost Hope, Lost Lives: Insights into Lebanese Irregular Migration”, was conducted in collaboration with Fair Futures and supported by the Government of the United Kingdom. It explored the intentions, motivations, and decision-making processes driving irregular migration among Lebanese individuals, with a focus on high-risk areas in Tripoli and Akkar.  

Data was collected through a survey of 954 men and women in the age group of 18–50 years old in the Beirut, Tripoli and Bebnine districts and complemented with data collected during four focus groups discussions with residents in Mina Jardin and Bebnine.  

“The decision to migrate irregularly from Lebanon is mainly driven by the inability to meet practical needs locally rather than a desire to leave the country”, said IOM Lebanon’s Head of Office, Mathieu Luciano.  

“Currently, vulnerable Lebanese individuals are faced with two difficult options: remaining in hardship with limited prospects for improvement or leaving irregularly by boat, with the risk of drowning at sea. This report provides timely recommendations to expand these options, such as enhancing the availability of safe and legal alternatives for Lebanese nationals to prevent further tragedies at sea.”  

IOM has conducted several focus groups, which helped to shed light on the reality of people’s day-to-day living situations, with runaway inflation and the “dollarization” of the economy. 

“I am a taxi driver. Yesterday I earned 1,150,000 Lebanese pounds (LL) and I paid for fuel 1,400,000 LL. Each one of us should have 1,000 jobs to live. I have three kids and my wife is pregnant. Schools are closed since a month, no hospitals. We’re dying slowly, so for sure I’m traveling to help my kids have a future. I can’t see any other solution. If there was, I would stay.” Said one of the male participants in Tripoli. 

Amidst a deteriorating economic situation, Lebanon is witnessing one of the largest waves of emigration in its history. Together with Syrians and Palestinians, an increasing number of Lebanese nationals are seeking to leave the country, often relying on migrant smugglers to secure passage by sea to Europe. Tragically, at least three voyages in 2022 resulted in significant loss of life, with hundreds of people drowning at sea.  

Families with children who participated in the study expressed concerns over limited access to healthcare and education as key drivers for considering irregular migration, alongside feelings of insecurity. 

“Medication is our first priority, then education and then our basic needs. As a mother, I am always worried about my kids. I don’t think about myself and about my needs. What matters is my kids.” Said one of the female participants in Tripoli. 

The study highlighted that many Lebanese nationals would reconsider their irregular migration plans if their basic needs could be met.  

The authors recommend addressing these unmet needs by connecting vulnerable individuals to a network of services and programmes that provide decent work opportunities, access to education and health care (including mental health and psychosocial support), and protection services.  

The authors further suggested that expanding access to safe and legal labour mobility pathways would enable people to make safer choices.  

“If there’s a possibility of migrating in one year regularly, of course I can wait.”  added one of the male participants from Akkar. 

IOM continues to collaborate with the Lebanese government and other partners to address the immediate humanitarian and protection needs of the most vulnerable populations in Lebanon.  

Additionally, IOM supports Lebanese institutions in promoting good migration governance, which includes strengthening national border management and search and rescue services to address migrant smuggling and ensure that migrants facing risks to life or safety are promptly rescued and offered protection and assistance. 


For more information, the full report can be downloaded here.  

For media inquiries, please contact: 

Beirut: Tala AL-KHATIB 

Cairo: Mohammedali ABUNAJElA  



SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities