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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 18:32 GMT 19:32 UK
Stranded and scared in the war zone
By Martin Patience
BBC News, Beirut

As thousands of European and American evacuees board navy ships and cruise liners in Beirut's port heading for Cyprus or Turkey, Gopal Ghimire worries about where he will eat his next meal.

Mr Ghimire, 31, is from Nepal and says that his employers have abandoned him and five other of his countrymen without two months' salary.

US citizens wait to be evacuated to safety
US citizens are being evacuated to safety
His frequent trips to the Nepalese consulate in the city are proving fruitless with his native country still struggling to emerge from a civil war.

"I'm angry with the consulate because they aren't providing us with an opportunity to leave," said the labourer, who has $30 (16) in his pocket.

"If they don't get us out of here then we might die here in Lebanon."

Mr Ghimire is one of the forgotten foreigners of this crisis - stranded in Lebanon without a car, boat or plane ride out of the country.

Lebanon has a cheap supply of labour from Asian countries such as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. They number in the tens of thousands and are often exploited.

'I'm lucky'

Many Europeans and Americans have complained about the speed of the evacuation but they never doubted their countries would come to their rescue.

But people like Mr Ghimire must fend for themselves.

"Nobody takes care of us. We must stand on our own two feet," he said.

FOREIGNERS IN LEBANON
Sri Lanka: 80,000
Canada: 40,000
Philippines: 30,000
Australia: 25,000
US: 25,000
UK: 22,000 (inc. 10,000 with dual nationality)
France: 20,000

In the last week, foreigners and Lebanese have been fleeing this country which is bombarded daily by Israel.

On Wednesday, thousands of Europeans, Americans and some other foreign nationals boarded ships taking them to safety.

One of the evacuees, a 43-year-old French businessman, said: "I definitely count myself lucky to have nationality in a country that can get me out of here."

But even if workers like Mr Ghimire could get on a boat, most would be unable to afford their airfare home. Most earn between $300 (163) and $500 (271) a month.

"We heard that it was free to go to Cyprus but then we would have to pay a lot to get back to our country," said Dinah Vicente, 31, a Filipino citizen who works at a Chinese restaurant in the Lebanese capital.

Swedish nationals board a ship
Many Europeans have been boarding ships to leave

She said she had initially wanted to leave the country but had then changed her mind.

"We are used to the bombs now but the Israeli planes still frighten us. We're unsure of where they will drop their bombs," she said.

Ms Vicente insists her boss has treated her well.

"He told us that if there were any serious problems then he would find accommodation for us in the mountains," she said.

But without tourists and their dollars, Ms Vicente is worried the restaurant could close and that she would lose her job.

Many of the foreign workers like Ms Vicente here are caught in a lose-lose situation. They cannot travel because they do not have money, but they cannot stay because there is little work.

But one of Mr Ghimire's fellow countrymen insists he has the solution.

"If we get the opportunity we can go to Europe," said Mohan Prasai, 51. "That would be like a heaven land for us."






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