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Welcome to Lebanese Diaspora Web page
 
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Lebanese Diaspora  

Lebanon, a nation of some 4 million, is said to have more than 15 million in the Diaspora all over the globe. This Diaspora has rarely- if ever- been engaged. Indeed it has never been engaged for any volunteer work except in isolated and individual cases. This is understandable considering that a short time ago in the history of Lebanon, it was quite difficult to even reach the Diaspora in as far flung places as Sao Paolo, Sydney, or Los Angeles. The Lebanese Diaspora for its part found itself completely isolated from its home nation.

 
Migration has long been a tradition for the Lebanese, whose ascendants the Phoenicians travelled extensively around the Mediterranean establishing trading posts and by some accounts beat Christopher Columbus and the Vikings to the Americas by almost 2,000 years. The modern Lebanese Diaspora began in the 19th century when Lebanese Christians fled from the Ottomans oppression. In the 20th century, the two World Wars and a civil war in Lebanon itself during the 1970s contributed to further emigration.The modern wave of Lebanese emigration occurred from the 1990s onward.
 
While under Syrian influence, Beirut passed legislation which prevented second-generation Lebanese of the diaspora from automatically obtaining Lebanese citizenship. This has reinforced the emigration status of many diaspora Lebanese. There is currently a campaign by those Lebanese of the diaspora who already have Lebanese citizenship to attain the vote from abroad. If suffrage was to be extended to these 1.2 million Lebanese emigration citizens, it would have a significant political effect, since as many as 80% of them are believed to be Christians.
 
Integration in the host country has not always been an easy task for the new migrants. In countries such as Argentina or Australia they found themselves on the margins of the host society. In Argentina, where they were referred to as 'Turcos' -as they were immigrant of an Ottoman Turkish Province- they found themselves as "a stigmatized immigrant group within a strongly assimilation national culture." Michael Humphrey, Lebanese identities: between cities, nations and trans-nations (Winter 2004). In Australia, they "assumed a ...  position on the economic margins as petty traders, were referred to as 'Syrian,' and were often resented for their success. ... their Ottoman imperial origin meant they were classified as Asiatic and consequently kept under close surveillance by local police." Id.  In Africa, Lebanese communities have often been targeted as scapegoats for economic crisis.
 
Yet, one of the impressive factors about the Lebanese Diaspora, apart from the high number of migrants, is the faculty the children of the Cedars have to adapt, integrate and succeed into a new environment usually unknown and sometimes hostile. Indeed, Lebanese usually "appear to have integrated comfortably with the various societies and diverse cultures, ... many have excelled in these new environments and become notable in the fields of entertainment, politics, sport and academia."Throw a Lebanese to the sea and he will come out of it with a fish" states a Lebanese adage.

Lebanon has known three important waves of migration. Starting in the late 1800s the first wave of emigration was a disorganized one. In villages, the means of subsistence were limited, families were large, and land was scarce. The young had no prospects but to emigrate. Often clandestine (as the Ottomans initially prohibited emigration) the early migrants, usually poor and uneducated villagers, would board a boat, any boat, and embark into a journey without knowing where they would end up. 
The second wave was more organized, following the First World War and the hunger and poverty that stroke the land of milk and honey, many Lebanese, still poor and, often, uneducated villagers would join family members, or fellow villagers, who had already settled in foreign countries. Often hearing of the success of their peers they also decided to give it a chance.

Some have left to never come back, making a life in their host country, their children "whose roots were plucked from the hills of Lebanon"* are "deeply rooted"* in their host country.

Nonetheless, many have grown up maintaining strong ties with Lebanon, in many cases members of the family such as parents, siblings or cousins were still there. The young man leaving Lebanon very early in his life would go back there to find a wife and start a family. Those who were living in difficult countries in Africa or Latin America would send their children to Lebanon so that they could receive a proper education or for health reasons. The father would stay in the host country to work, send money to his family and shuttle between his working country and Lebanon. This was, and, somehow,  still is, a usual pattern for families in the Diaspora, a father who earned enough money to place his family in their home country which has a better educational system and conditions are easier.

The fifteen years civil war that struck the land of the cedars will change those rules. Now parents would keep their kin next to them or send them to Europe or the U.S. for them to get a proper education. Lebanon being too dangerous was not an option anymore.
The civil war has also intensified emigration and is the third phase to the modern Lebanese Diaspora, seeing a metropolitan migration as well.

Many of those who left during the civil war came back home during the 1990s. The usual pattern of sending your wife and kids to Lebanon while you were abroad started anew. Nevertheless, because of an occupied country, a stalling economy, bad salaries, unemployment and an unstable political and regional situation; many hesitated in returning and kept living abroad.

Given the adundance of Lebanese who have settled in countries across the world the United States, Brazil, Australia and the United Kingdom they appear to have integrated comfortably with the various societies and their diverse cultures, indeed many have excelled in these new environments and become notable in the fields of entertainment, politics, sport and academia.
 
 
 
MONTREAL, CANADA
There are approximately 300,000 people living in the various provinces of Canada of Lebanese origin. 150,000 are concentrated in French-speaking Montreal. The 1991 census listed 54,605 Lebanese-born people living in Canada, and another 37,000 have arrived in the years since. Prominent Lebanese- Canadians include Honourable Senators Pierre De Ban, Mac Harb, councillor of the city of Ottowa and popular young writer, Wajdi Mouawad.
 
 
 
EUROPE
Although the Lebanese Diaspora has brought many citizens to the Americas, Australia and Brazil, the presence in Europe is not so great, with Great Britain, Germany and France having the largest Lebanese communities. Nevertheless, in the last decade of the 20th century, 45,000 Lebanese citizens made their way into Europe. Notable Lebanese in Europe include Dr Peter Medawar, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1960 for his research on tissue implantation and Lebanese-born Frenchman and novelist Alexandre Najjar.
 
 
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
There are three million Americans who claim Lebanese descent, 44,000 of which have moved there from Lebanon since 1991. Around 85% of these are descended from the Phoenicians. The main concentrations are in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York; especially in Brooklyn, where there are high numbers of Lebanese restaurants. In politics, George Mitchell served in the U.S. Senate from 1980- 1995 and John H Sununu was Chief of Staff under President George Bush. In business, American-Swiss-Lebanese Nicholas Hayek rescued the Swatch watch-making company and invented the concept of the Smart car.
 
 
SO PAULO, BRAZIL
There are one million people of Lebanese origin living in So Paulo, and a total of nine million in Brazil, which represents 6% of the whole population. Many Brazilian-sounding surnames such as Ferreira, Salles, Souza, Lage or Pedreira are, in fact, of Lebanese origin. There were three waves of immigration to Brazil, in the mid-1800s, between the world wars, and again post-war. Of elected politicians, 10% are of Lebanese origin; Brian Peter Medawar won the Nobel Laureate in Medicine in 1960 for the discovery of acquired immunological tolerance and Ziad Fazah, reportedly the worlds greatest polyglot, speaks 55 languages.
 
 
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
There are 300,000 people of Lebanese origin in Australia, mainly in Sydney and Melbourne. Since 1991, 13,000 Lebanese have arrived, and become integrated into Australian society. Prominent figures include the first female governor of New South Wales, Professor Marie Bashir and Rachid Arida who was President of the Supreme Court for 30 years. Recently, Ahmed Elrich represented Australia in the Olympic under-23s football, and Joseph Haydar, is the Australian champion of weightlifting.

The international diaspora is vital to Lebanon's future. There are as many Lebanese outside the country as there are in it, if you consider the last number of Lebanese who have emigrated over the past three or four generations. Expatriate Lebanese are hesitant to invest heavily in their country as long as its future is in great doubt.

 
Africa
The Lebanese diaspora in West Africa dates to colonial times. Immigrants from impoverished regions of Southern Lebanon came to Senegal around the turn of the century to invest in peanut farming, the staple of the nations economy.

Independence brought changesmany economicand Lebanese traders moved into commerce, manufacturing, and real estate. In Cote dIvoires capital of Abidjan, 80% of modern buildings are in the hands of Lebanese-Ivorians.

For young African governments, the Lebanese were both a necessity and a liability. Their investment was vital, yet the diasporas economic prowess ran counter to the rhetoric of Africanization held by many post-colonial governments. New regimes were hard pressed to put black Africans in power, and keep lighter skinned foreigners out.

As resentment towards their prowess grew, many Lebanese worked hard to form ties with local religious and government leaders. From the 1970s to the present, many of Senegals most notable mosques, schools and hospitals have been constructed with Lebanese donations.

 
 
Population Statistics
 
Image: Lebanon demography
From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
 
 
 

Subject : evolution of demography in Lebanon (1961-2003)

Y-axis : Number of inhabitants in thousands.

Source : Data FAOSTAT, year 2005 (last updated 11th february 2005)

 
Until today the Lebanese Diaspora plays a role in Lebanon, keeping its ties with their homeland. They have brought a persistent support in all matters and have contributed to the Lebanese society and economy. Often successful Lebanese abroad give back to their country by helping in the construction and/or reconstruction of their villages' infrastructures. The Diaspora also contributes to the economy some times through investments and often through remittance sent to their family back home as well as through tourism by their visits to the homeland. Many, still, hope to return and settle there at last as more young Lebanese seek professional alternatives abroad as hope in home grows faint.
 
 

Aiming to help the Lebanese people from all over the world to communicate, interact and exchange ideas

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