700 Filipinos and Sri Lankans evacuated from Lebanon

DAMASCUS, Aug 5, 2006 (AFP) – More than 700 Filipinos and Sri Lankans were evacuated from Lebanon Saturday after being trapped when Israeli air raids destroyed the road they were hoping to take into Syria, officials said. “We have evacuated 761 people from Sri Lanka and the Philippines aboard 22 buses, which made it to (the border crossing at) Aarida by using coastal roads,” said Jean-Philippe Shauzy, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The IOM had to halt their planned evacuation Friday after Israeli aircraft destroyed a number of bridges on the highway linking Beirut to Tripoli and the Aarida crossing into Syria.

Shauzy said his organization has already evacuated 5,700 foreign nationals but another 6,000 were still waiting to leave.

Most of those who arrived Saturday in Syria are women who work as domestic help for Lebanese families.

They are to spend the night in a temporary shelter before being repatriated with IOM assistance.

Shauzy said the majority of the thousands of Asians working as home helpers in Lebanon were well-treated by their employers and were allowed to leave the country. However, he said a “minority” faced the “grim scenario” of either being forced to sta