UN aid workers return to Yemen on flights to Sanaa

Workers unload aid shipment from a plane at Sanaa airport on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 26 November 2017
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UN aid workers return to Yemen on flights to Sanaa

GENEVA: Humanitarian aid workers arrived in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Saturday, after a nearly three-week blockade by the Saudi-led military coalition, an official at the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said.
“First plane landed in Sanaa this morning with humanitarian aid workers,” WFP’s regional spokeswoman Abeer Etefa told Reuters in an e-mail on Saturday.
Officials at Sanaa airport said two other UN flights had arrived on Saturday.
A UN plane carrying desperately needed vaccines landed in Sanaa.
Three other aircraft — two carrying UN aid workers and one carrying International Committee of the Red Cross staff — also landed at the airport, which was repaired earlier this week after a coalition airstrike knocked out its controls, an AFP correspondent reported.
The UN humanitarian affairs office had said Friday that it had been given clearance by the coalition to resume flights into Sanaa.
The UN children’s fund UNICEF said Saturday’s flight was carrying more than 15 tons, or 1.9 million doses, of vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and other preventable diseases.
The UN humanitarian office said that a ship loaded with wheat and another with equipment to treat Yemen’s cholera epidemic is ready to head to Hodeida.
The coalition fighting the armed Houthi militias in Yemen said on Wednesday it would allow aid in through the Red Sea ports of Hodeida and Salif, as well as UN flights to Sanaa.
International aid groups have welcomed the decision to let humanitarian aid in. About 7 million people face famine in Yemen and their survival depends on international assistance.
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition was quoted on Friday as saying that 42 permits have been issued for international aid flights to Sanaa and naval shipments to Hodeida.
The US welcomed the “first step” by Saudi Arabia to allow aid to reach Yemen and called for negotiations on the country’s conflict.
“Full and immediate implementation of the announced measures is a first step in ensuring that food, medicine, and fuel reach the Yemeni people and that the aid organizations on the front lines of mitigating this humanitarian crisis are able to do their essential work,” the White House said in a statement.
“We look forward to additional steps that will facilitate the unfettered flow of humanitarian and commercial goods from all ports of entry to the points of need,” it added.
“The United States continues to believe that this devastating conflict, and the suffering it causes, must be brought to an end through political negotiations,” the White House said.
The US-backed coalition closed air, land and sea access on Nov. 6, in a move it said was to stop the flow of arms to the Houthis from Iran.
The action came after Saudi Arabia intercepted a missile fired toward Riyadh.


Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

An Asian domestic worker walks her employer's dog in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, on April 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 20 min 22 sec ago
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Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

  • Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come

BEIRUT: Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Lebanon to end what it described as an “inherently abusive” migration sponsorship system governing the lives of tens of thousands of foreigners working in private homes.
Domestic workers in Lebanon are excluded from the labor law, and instead obtain legal residency though their employers’ sponsorship under the so-called “kafala” system.
But activists say this leaves the maids, nannies and carers at the mercy of their employers and unable to leave without their permission, including in numerous documented cases of abuse.
“Amnesty International is calling on the Lebanese authorities to end the kafala system and extend labor protections to migrant domestic workers,” the London-based rights group said.
“The Lebanese parliament should amend the labor law to include domestic workers under its protection,” including to allow them to join unions, the group said.
Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers from countries in Africa and Asia, the vast majority of them women.
In a report released Wednesday titled “Their house is my prison,” Amnesty surveyed 32 domestic workers employed mostly in and around Beirut, revealing “alarming patterns of abuse.”
Among them, 10 women said they were not allowed to leave their employer’s house, with some saying they were locked in.
Twenty-seven said their employers had confiscated their passports.
Many worked overtime, 14 were not allowed a single day off each week, and several had their monthly salaries revoked or decreased, despite it being a breach of their contracts.
The labor ministry introduced a standard contract for domestic workers in 2009, but the forms are often written in Arabic, a language they cannot read.
The government in late 2018 said it had translated the contracts into several other languages.
Amnesty registered eight cases of forced labor and four of human trafficking, the report said.
Six reported severe physical abuse, while almost all had been subjected to humiliating treatment and several were deprived of food.
“Sometimes I would get so hungry... I used to mix water with sugar when I was hungry and drink it,” one worker said.
With the abuse taking a toll on their mental health, six said they had contemplated or attempted suicide.
Only four of those interviewed had private rooms, while the rest were relegated to living rooms, storage rooms, kitchens or balconies.
“There is a man in the house who can enter the living room any time he wants,” said one worker who was forced to sleep in the living room.
Activists accuse the Lebanese authorities of being lax in bringing abusive employers to account.
Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come.
In 2008, Human Rights Watch found that migrant domestic workers in Lebanon were dying at a rate of more than one per week from suicide or in failed escapes.
Many other countries in the Arab world also follow the “kafala” system for household workers.