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Lebanon crises increase suffering of migrant domestic workers

UN News, Lebanon, 25 December 2021 - “The recruitment agencies and employers treat us as if we are human commodities!”, says Adanesh Worko, an Ethiopian worker who works in a house in Beirut. “Sometimes I am beaten and denied food but, because of my contract, I cannot choose to work somewhere else, or go back home. My employer said 'I bought you. Pay me $2,000 and then you can leave wherever you want.’”

Around 250,000 domestic workers are believed to be living in Lebanon, and around 99 per cent of them are migrants on work permits. The vast majority are women from Ethiopia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, who are earning salaries ranging from from $150 to $400 a month.

The recent economic crisis in Lebanon has left many of them without a job, but those who are in work remain subject to the “kafala” or sponsorship system that has been likened to modern slavery, and puts them at the mercy of their employers.

Under this system, which has been denounced by civil society organizations and human rights associations, a migrant worker cannot terminate their work contract without the consent of their employer. The system gives employers almost complete control over workers' lives, and makes them vulnerable to all forms of exploitation and abuse. And, if they escape, their stay in the country becomes illegal.

The workers’ most basic human rights – such as the right to work specific hours; the right to keep personal documents such as a passport or residence card; and the right to rest, move freely, communicate with friends and family, and enjoy other personal freedoms – are not respected, according to human rights sources.

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Source: https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/12/1108332

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