The uncertain fate of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon
A domestic worker of foreign origin in Beirut, May 21, 2020. REUTERS / Mohamed Azakir
Text by: Paul Khalifeh Follow
Domestic workers have been hit hard by the economic and financial crisis that has rocked Lebanon since last fall, aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic. The image of around 30 Ethiopian domestic workers abandoned on a sidewalk was looped in the media and social media last week.
With our correspondent in Beirut,
Shelter was found for the 35 domestic workers who found themselves homeless, destitute and sometimes undocumented after their employers, who could no longer pay their wages, chased them away. They were housed in a hotel by the Ministry of Labor before being taken care of by Caritas-Lebanon. But this provisional solution does not solve this problem which is likely to worsen without the weeks to come.
More than one in three employees in an irregular situation
With the worsening economic crisis , it is unlikely that Lebanon's financial situation will improve in the coming months, according to most experts. What is the fate awaiting the 250,000 domestic servants of migrant households , 75,000 of whom are in an illegal situation?
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The scarcity of dollars and the depreciation of the Lebanese pound have caused the purchasing power of many Lebanese families to plummet. The cessation of economic activity due to the coronavirus pandemic led to an explosion in unemployment, which rose to 32% in three months. In a few months, a million Lebanese, or 65% of the working population, could find themselves unemployed, according to the Research Center and the polling institute The International of Information. Under these conditions, the majority of foreign domestic workers will lose their jobs and those who are in an illegal situation are the most vulnerable.
A too expensive abduction
Many employers no longer even have the means to finance the return of migrant domestic workers. For Ethiopian women, for example, the return ticket costs $ 680. But Addis Ababa demand that the fourteen days of compulsory confinement for all those who return, be funded by Lebanese employers. Most refuse or cannot afford the $ 800 cost of this operation.
The Lebanese state also does not have the means to pay for repatriation. Moreover, it does not do so for the thousands of Lebanese expatriates who are forced to buy their tickets at a high price if they wish to return.
The Lebanese authorities have turned to the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to try to find a solution to this umpteenth humanitarian crisis to be faced by Lebanon, which is already plagued by a multitude of fits.
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