Rights groups slam Lebanon’s block of new worker contract

Ethiopian domestic workers dismissed by their employers queue, with their belongings, outside Ethiopia’s consulate in Beirut, Lebanon, June 24, 2020. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 28 October 2020

Rights groups slam Lebanon’s block of new worker contract

  • Lebanon is home to around 250,000 migrants, mostly women from Africa and Asia, who work as housekeepers, carers or nannies
  • They are not protected by the labor law, but instead work under a set of laws, policies and customs called ‘kafala’

BEIRUT: Two rights groups on Wednesday criticized a Lebanese judicial council decision to strike down a new work contract for foreign domestic workers, calling it a “sharp blow” to their rights.

The labor ministry in September approved the revised contract giving migrant helpers more rights, including being able to resign at will and keep their own passports — to stop some employers confiscating them.

But recruitment agencies who bring in workers filed a complaint, and the State Council on October 14 issued a temporary decision to block it from coming into force.

“The State Council has delivered a sharp blow to migrant domestic workers rights by suspending the implementation of the new standard unified contract,” said Diala Haidar of Amnesty International.

In its decision, “the council has failed to make any reference to the rights of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon... It only made reference to what the recruitment agencies consider to be severe damage to their interests,” Haidar added.

The State Council said it had blocked the new contract’s implementation because it could inflict “huge harm to the worker recruitment sector,” according to the decision seen by AFP.

Aya Majzoub of Human Rights Watch called the decision “very disappointing.”
“There needs to be a cultural shift,” Majzoub said.
“People are quite used to the idea that migrant domestic workers can’t leave their employer without the consent of the employer, and they view that as normal.”

Ali Al-Amine, head of the recruitment agencies’ syndicate, claimed they did not want to cancel the new contract completely, but to make amendments.
“Our main objection was with the article on the recruitment mechanism and the termination of the contract, not to do with the rights of the workers,” he said.
“There needs to be balance between the rights and duties of all parties in the contract.”

Lebanon is home to around 250,000 migrants, mostly women from Africa and Asia, who work as housekeepers, carers or nannies.

They are not protected by the labor law, but instead work under a set of laws, policies and customs called ‘kafala’, repeatedly slammed by rights groups as allowing a wide range of abuse.

Activists had said the new contract was a step in the right direction until the labor law is amended to include all domestic workers.

Live-in domestic workers have been particularly hit by Lebanon’s economic crisis, with many now receiving wages in the devalued local currency, and others not paid or even abandoned by their employers in the street.


Zarif ‘desperate’ to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran: Al-Jubeir

Updated 01 December 2020

Zarif ‘desperate’ to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran: Al-Jubeir

  • “It is not the policy of Saudi Arabia to engage in assasinations; unlike Iran” minister tweeted

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said on Tuesday Mohammad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister, was “desperate” to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran.

“Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif is desperate to blame the Kingdom for anything negative that happens in Iran. Will he blame us for the next earthquake or flood?” he tweeted.

“It is not the policy of Saudi Arabia to engage in assasinations; unlike Iran, which has done so since the Khomeini Revolution in 1979. Ask us, and ask many other countries who have lost many of their citizens due to Iran’s criminal and illegal behavior,” he added.

Al-Jubeir's comments come after Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in an ambush near Tehran on Friday.

Fakhrizadeh has been described by Western and Israeli intelligence services for years as the leader of a covert atomic bomb programme halted in 2003, which Israel and the United States accuse Tehran of trying to restore in secret.

Iran has blamed external entities, including Israel and an exiled opposition group, for the killing.