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Migrant workers in Lebanon have been facing unique hardships for years, and now their situation has been worsening due to the pandemic and the Lebanese government’s strict lockdown.
Trigger warning / content warning: abuse, violence, suicide
There have been countless reports of abuse and racism targeting domestic helpers. Lebanon’s Kafala system – which ties domestic workers to their employers – doesn’t allow them to leave their jobs or the country without the permission of the employer.Such an arrangement puts migrant workers at risk of exploitation and mistreatment, making it difficult for them to leave abusive employers, according to HRW.Modern slavery: The truth behind Lebanon’s domestic help abuse (by Tarek Ali Ahmad)
“We are invisible,” said Banchi Yimer, an Ethiopian former domestic worker who founded a group that campaigns for domestic workers’ rights in Lebanon. “We don’t even exist for our governments, not just the Lebanese government.”
In just three days, she said, 20 Ethiopian domestic workers were abandoned by their sponsors and left outside the embassy. A photo she posted shows women with as little as a backpack or a purse, lined up along the walls of the embassy — some sitting on the floor.
The pandemic delivered just the latest blow to a Lebanese economy, already devastated by a financial crisis brought on by decades of corruption and mismanagement. In recent weeks, the Lebanese pound, pegged to the dollar for more than two decades, has lost 60% of its value against the dollar and prices of basic goods soared. Unemployment has risen to 35% and an estimated 45% of the country’s population is now below the poverty line.
In this crisis, migrant workers are among the most vulnerable.Lebanon’s migrant workers’ plight worsens as crises multiply (by Sarah El Deeb)
One case worker for the labour rights group This is Lebanon described how abuse victims had been left with no choice but to stay with their employer until the situation changed.
“In the past when dealing with cases we normally demand that abusers send the victim to a shelter or buy her ticket home,” said the case worker, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of her work.
“But with the lockdown we don’t have either option.”Lebanon’s coronavirus lockdown leaves migrant women penniless and stranded (by Emeline Wuilbercq, Ben Barkawi)
Migrant worker suicide is depressingly common in Lebanon. In another case this month, Faustina Tay, a 23 year old domestic worker from Ghana, sent dozens of messages to Canada-based activist group This Is Lebanon warning of abuse at the hands of her employers. She was found dead below her employers’ home on March 14 – her death is considered a suicide.
“We’ve seen an increase in [suicide] cases, particularly emergency cases and requests for shelter and repatriation, during and caused by the economic crisis,” Zeina Ammar, Lebanese activist with Anti-Racism Movement (ARM), told Al Arabiya English.Coronavirus traps migrant workers in Lebanon as economy fails (by Jacob Boswall)
If you can, please spread the word. If you are able, please consider donating to Anti-Racism Movement – Lebanon.
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