Foreign domestic workers in Lebanon protest abuses

Migrant domestic workers carry placards during a protest in Beirut on Sunday, to call for the abolishment of the sponsorship (kafala) system. (AFP)
Updated 05 May 2019

Foreign domestic workers in Lebanon protest abuses

  • Domestic workers are excluded from the labor law, and instead obtain legal residency though their employers’ sponsorship
  • Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers

BEIRUT: Hundreds of foreign domestic workers demonstrated in the Lebanese capital Sunday to demand the scrapping of a sponsorship system that they complain leaves them open to abuse from employers.
Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers, the vast majority of them women, from countries including Ethiopia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
They are excluded from the labor law, and instead obtain legal residency though their employers’ sponsorship under the so-called “kafala” system.
The protesters marching in Beirut held up placards reading “No to slavery and yes to justice” and “Stop kafala.”
“We want the cancelation of this system. There are employees imprisoned in houses and they need to have days off,” Dozossissane, a 29-year-old Ethiopian, told AFP.
Lebanon’s labor ministry introduced a standard contract for domestic workers in 2009, but the forms are often written in Arabic, a language many cannot read.
Activists regularly accuse the authorities of failing to take claims of abuse seriously, with maids, nannies and carers left at the mercy of employers.
Amnesty International last month urged Lebanon to end what it called the “inherently abusive” migration sponsorship system and change the labor law to offer domestic workers more protection.
A report from the rights group that surveyed 32 domestic workers revealed “alarming patterns of abuse,” including physical punishments, humiliating treatment and food deprivation.


Troops halt Lebanese ‘revolution bus’ over security concerns

Lebanese anti-government protesters flash victory signs as they head to the south of Lebanon on a 'revolution' bus from central Beirut on November 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 17 November 2019

Troops halt Lebanese ‘revolution bus’ over security concerns

  • The protest convoy is aiming to reach Nabatieh and Tyre, two cities that have challenged Hezbollah and the Amal Movement in southern Lebanon during weeks of unrest

BEIRUT: A Lebanese “revolution bus” traveling from north to south to unite protesters was halted by troops outside the city of Sidon on Saturday.
The army set up a road block to prevent the bus and a large protest convoy entering Sidon, the third-largest city in the country.
Local media said that the decision had been made to defuse tensions in the area following widespread protests.
Lebanese troops blocked the Beirut-South highway at the Jiyeh-Rumailah checkpoint over “security concerns,” a military source told Arab News.
“Some people in Sidon objected to the crossing of the bus and we feared that problems may take place,” the source added.
A protester in Ilya Square in Sidon said: “Those who do not want the bus to enter Sidon should simply leave the square because there are many who want to welcome the bus.”
The army allowed the bus to enter the town of Rumailah, 2 km from Sidon. “The bus will stop here after nightfall because of security fears and the risk of an accident,” the military source said.
The protest convoy is aiming to reach Nabatieh and Tyre, two cities that have challenged Hezbollah and the Amal Movement in southern Lebanon during weeks of unrest.
Activists said the protest bus “is spreading the idea of a peaceful revolution by unifying the people.”
“The pain is the same from the far north of Lebanon to the south and the only flag raised is the Lebanese flag,” one activist said.
Organizers of the protest convoy rejected claims that the cities of Sidon, Nabatieh and Tyre were reluctant to welcome the bus, and voiced their respect for the Lebanese army decision.

After leaving Akkar the bus passed through squares that witnessed protests in Tripoli, Batroun, Jbeil, Zouk Mosbeh, Jal El Dib and Beirut. Protesters chanted “Revolution” and lined the route of the convoy, turning it into a “procession of the revolution.”
The bus paused in Khalde, where the first victim of the protests, Alaa Abu Fakhr, was shot and killed a few days ago by a Lebanese soldier. The victim’s widow and family welcomed the convoy and protesters laid wreaths at the site of the shooting.
Activists’ tweets on Saturday claimed that life in Beirut’s southern suburbs is as difficult as in other areas of Lebanon.
“As a Shiite girl living in the heart of the southern suburbs, I deny that we are living well and not suffering. We are in a worse position than the rest of the regions,” said an activist who called herself Ruanovsky.
“No one is doing well,” said Wissam Abdallah. “The suburbs have external security and safety, but unfortunately there is a lot of corruption. There are forged car van plates, motorcycle mafia, Internet and satellite mafia, royalties mafia, and hashish and drugs mafia. Municipalities have to deal with these things as soon as possible.”