In response to Venezuela’s deep socioeconomic and humanitarian crisis, some Venezuelans have decided to temporarily move to Lebanon, from where their ancestors had immigrated beginning in the 19th century.
Like most of South America, Venezuela has a sizable population of Lebanese ancestry. While Lebanese Venezuelans, who are mostly Christian or Druze, have generally amassed wealth and achieved high social and political positions, Venezuela’s ongoing crisis is prompting them to return to the home of their forefathers. There are no official numbers, but it is believed thousands of Lebanese Venezuelans have resettled in recent years.
“The economic situation and security concerns are the two major motivations for Venezuelan emigration to Lebanon,” Fadi,* a Lebanese Venezuelan, who settled in Lebanon’s Aley region in 2014, told Muftah. “Robberies and kidnappings have started shaping everyday life in Venezuela. People are afraid,” Fadi explained. He finds comfort in Lebanon’s relative safety: “Here I can move freely at night without having to fear anything.”
Fadi was born in Venezuela and knew Lebanon primarily from childhood vacations. Coming to his ancestral home was easy for him, as his family had maintained its Lebanese citizenship and owns property in the Mediterranean country. Fadi’s grandparents emigrated from Aley to Venezuela in the 1950s for economic reasons. In their new country, the family opened a successful business that allowed them to buy land and build a house in Lebanon.
Education is another important factor prompting reverse migration from Venezuela. “They come here because the education in Lebanon is on a higher standard,” Fadi said.
Of course, many Lebanese Venezuelans also face challenges in their new home. Spanish remains the dominant language for most. Many are not fluent in Arabic, English, or French, which can be an obstacle in the de-facto trilingual country. In order to navigate his new life, Fadi had to learn English. He hopes this will increase his chances of finding a job in his field. A trained engineer, who worked in Venezuela’s oil industry, Fadi is now teaching Spanish in a private school in Beirut. “I would like to work in my field, but it is highly difficult in Lebanon,” Fadi explained. Lebanon’s economic situation is not strong and Fadi lacks the necessary networks to secure the job he wants.
At the same time, Fadi’s longing for Venezuela remains strong. “Many of us Venezuelans here are lost,” Fadi said, “the culture is different after all, and we cannot stop dreaming of Venezuela.” He believes “many will go back as soon as the situation in Venezuela improves.” Until then, Lebanon will continue to provide this displaced community with safe and stable shelter.
*Fadi is a pseudonym for this interviewee, who asked that his identity be protected.