Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bengalis falling too from the balconies

Al-Akhbar newspaper noted today the following.

A Bengali maid, Shania Sh., fell from the house of her employers in Beit Shabab (Mount Lebanon). She was taken to hospital and her situation is deemed stable. The reports mention that she fell while cleaning the windows.
Another Bengali woman, Fatima Z., was hit by a car on the Airport Road area. She sustained injuries and was taken to hospital. The reports mention that Fatima did not hold ID documents.

Note: I might be renaming this blog Migrant Workers Falling!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday deaths among migrant workers

Al-Akhbar Newspaper reported today the following.
During the Christmas weekend, between 23 and 25 December, 4 migrant workers were found dead. One dark skin man (unknown) was found in Nahr El Mot area, and it appears that he had fallen from a high place. In Tripoli, an ethiopian maid was found dead in the house of her employers. Another Ethiopian, Amduiuk D., was found dead in Be'er As Salasel and was taken to hospital where the doctor concluded that the death was "natural". In Ashrafieh, Ethiopian migrant worker Melotsfein H. (28 years old) fell from the 4th floor balcony of her employers in Ashrafieh and died (this was reporter earlier but with a name mistake, Melomasen).


العيد لم يمرّ بسلام على عمّال أجانب وعاملات أجنبيات، فبين 23 و25 الشهر الجاري سجلت التقارير الأمنية وفاة أربعة عاملات وعامل. فقد عُثر على جثة شاب، بشرته سمراء داكنة ومجهول الهوية في محلة نهر الموت، وتبين أنه سقط من مكان مرتفع، وفي طرابلس عُثر على عاملة إثيوبية داخل منزل مشغّليها. وقد لاقت مواطنتها أمدويوك د. مصيراً مشابهاً، إذ عُثر عليها جثة هامدة في منزل مشغّلها في بلدة بئر السلاسل، نُقلت إلى المستشفى، وجاء في تقرير الطبيب الشرعي أن «الوفاة طبيعية».
وعُثر على جثة امرأة سوداء اللون، مجهولة الهوية معلّقة بشجرة زيتون في محلة أدونيس، وجاء في التقارير أنه «يعتقد أنها خادمة».
في الأشرفية، سقطت العاملة الإثيوبية ميلوتسفاين ه. (28 عاماً) من شرفة منزل مشغّليها في الطبقة الرابعة، ما أدى إلى وفاتها.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Ethiopian maid "fell" from the balcony yesterday

The investigation into the death of migrant workers is taking a more "professional" approach. The death yesterday of Melomasen A., Ethiopian domestic worker, in Ashrafieh, was not declared a suicide. Investigations into the circumstances of the death are ongoing. She "fell" from the balcony of her employers and died immediately.

Al-Akhbar newspaper reported today on the incident. It mentioned that the security forces waited for the forensic team to come and remove the evidences, in case it was more than a case of suicide. This is considered a progress.


سقطت أمس العاملة الأثيوبية ملوماسن أ. من شرفة منزل مشغليها في منطقة الأشرفية. الشابة السمراء لقيت حتفها فوراً، وفق ما قال شهود. لم تُعرف أسباب هذا السقوط أو كيفية حدوثه. لكن من اللافت أن رجال قوى الأمن رفضوا رفع الجثة بانتظار رجال المباحث العلمية في الشرطة القضائية لأخذ الأدلة ومراقبة وضعية الجسم للتأكد من سبب الوفاة، فهل نتج من عملية انتحار أم أن ثمة اشتباهاً بحدوث جريمة قتل.
هذا التصرف يعدّ تقدماً ملموساً، ويلتقي مع مطالبات مدافعين عن العاملات، وذلك بعدما تكرر الكلام على ضرورة إجراء تحقيق جدي ودقيق في أسباب وفاة أية عاملة أجنبية، وعدم التحدث عن انتحار قبل أن تبيّن التحقيقات ذلك.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ethiopian maid commits suicide in Ashrafieh. Merry Christmas everyone!

I just got a phone call from Nadim (HRW).
A few hours ago, an Ethiopian maid committed suicide in Ashrafieh. Her body is still laying on the road.
Ethiopian Suicides blog wishes you a Merry Christmas!

Ethiopian minister of culture visits Lebanese officials

Ethiopian minister of culture visited several Lebanese ministers, accompanied by the Ethiopian deputy minister of labor and social affairs. On the agenda of the talks was the situation of Ethiopian migrant domestic workers in Lebanon.
The Lebanese minister of Social Affairs declared after receiving the Ethiopian delegation that Lebanese housewives should treat these women, especially the Ethiopian, like their daughters.

وزيـر الثقافـة الإثيوبـي يتابـع قضايا مواطناته العاملات في لبنان , As-Safir newspaper, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bengali maid in Lebanon attempts suicide by drinking detergent

Al-Akhbar newspaper reported today the suicide attempt of S. I., a Bengali national working as maid in the Bekaa, Lebanon. She was rushed into Bekaa hosptial after drinking a quantity of detergent (Flash) at her employers' house.

The following is Al-Akhbar's one sentence report in Arabic:

أُدخلت العاملة البنغلادشية س. ي. إلى مستشفى البقاع قرب تعلبايا وهي في حالة اللاوعي، وتبيّن أنها تناولت كمية من مادة الفلاش في منزل مشغليها، وجاء في التقارير أن س. ي. حاولت الانتحار.

The Daily Star: Migrant domestic workers left unprotected despite reforms

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

BEIRUT: A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report issued this month reveals that although Lebanon has begun to introduce important reforms for migrant domestic workers’ rights it is still falling short of offering adequate protection mechanisms. As a result, around 200,000 women migrant domestic workers still remain largely unprotected by labor laws and are subsequently subject to exploitation and frequent abuse by employers and agencies, the HRW report titled “Slow Movement: Protection of Migrants’ Rights in 2009.”

In a landmark case last week, a Lebanese woman was sentenced by a Batroun court to 15 days in prison and a fine after being found guilty of beating her Filipino maid, yet the general response of the Lebanese government has proven to be “far from sufficient,” the report said.

Among the many complaints made by domestic workers, – most of which hailing from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Ethiopia – are delayed payment of wages or total lack thereof, forced confinement to the workplace, no free time, and both verbal and physical abuse.

Lebanese labor laws specifically exclude domestic workers from rights guaranteed to other workers, such as paid holidays, and workers’ compensation.

As immigration sponsorship laws ties a domestic workers’ residency to a specific employer, it is near impossible for a domestic worker to change employers, even due to legitimate reasons such as non-payment or abuse, or to get access to the Lebanese justice system.

According to HRW’s report, temporary, employment-based visas which do not specify a migrant’s employer would facilitate the transfer of sponsorship.

Migrant workers rarely file complaints, as they fear detention on the basis of their illegal status, which they are automatically burdened with if their sponsors terminate their contract or they leave their employers.

In addition, disputes between employers and migrant workers often take years to be adjudicated by courts, which according to HRW could be remedied by enacting legislation that provides a “quick and simplified dispute resolution mechanism.”

HRW also recommends granting temporary visas in the case of pending legal procedures to combat the difficult conditions migrants workers face whilst being detained and avoiding detention beyond the terms of their sentence.

The Labor Ministry introduced a standard employment contract earlier this year that clarifies certain terms and conditions of employment for domestic workers, such as the maximum number of daily working hours, however, the need for a weekly day of rest, and paid sick leave lacks enforcement mechanisms.

The contract also leaves certain issues vague or omits them, such as a worker’s right to leave her employer’s house and to retain their passport.

In the report, HRW recommends that the Lebanese government “amends the labor code to provide comprehensive legal protection for domestic workers,” and calls upon the Labor Ministry to create an inspection unit tasked with monitoring working conditions for migrant domestic workers.

At least 45 migrant domestic workers died in Lebanon in 2008, most of whom due to suicide or attempting to escape.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Miss Philippine Lebanon on Lebanon's New TV

Yesterday, Lebanese had the opportunity to see on prime time TV (after the 8 o'clock news) a live interview with a Filipino maid working in Lebanon and elected Miss Philippine Lebanon 2009 in an event held in Lebanon. I only succeeded in shooting with my digital camera the last 5 minutes of the program "Lil Nasher" of New TV, but they are enough to send one important message that I had already blogged about: most Lebanese are far from being evil racist people, and that abuse of migrant workers is not as widespread as it appears.

video

In the footage above, the employer of the Miss Philippine Lebanon calls live to the show and says that she has a daughter of the age of her maid out of Lebanon and understands the difficulty of living abroad and that she treats her maid like her daughter. Joy (the nickname of the Filipino maid) was working for 4 years at her employer's who was happy to send her for the contest.

The TV program finished by hosting Maria, the Filipino who organized the Miss Philippine Lebanon event. She spoke English.

Ok. I have to add here that the employer does succeed to objectify her maid at first by saying "The agent who sent her to work in my house asked me to try her for a month. He said she was sent back [Arabic term used for a defect product] by a previous employer".

But that was only the unconscious use of discriminatory language and not a sign of racism.

Filipino media celebrate Lebanese court ruling condemning Lebanese woman

Filipino media celebrated Lebanese court ruling condemning Lebanese woman for beating her Filipino maid following the publication by the Filipino Department of Foreign Affairs of a press release which named (for the first time) Fayrouz Fayez as the women sentenced to prison.

The Global Nation Inquirer declared that "justice came after three years to an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) after a Lebanese court convicted her employer for abusing her."

In a radio interview, Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon Gilberto Asuque said the Philippines is still waiting for Lebanon to approve a law on the protection of foreign workers. “There is no law protecting Filipinos in Lebanon. Their labor laws only benefit the Lebanese. They saw that they are lacking in that area so there are now proposals to create a law for the protection of migrant workers. We will let Lebanon work on that internal matter,” Asuque said in Filipino.

The following is the Filipino DFA press release.

December 18, 2009 by DFA-PISU

The Philippine Embassy in Beirut reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on the conviction of a Lebanese employer for the abuse of Filipino domestic worker, the first in the history of Lebanon.
Fayrouz Farez was sentenced last December 9 by a Lebanese court to 15 days in prison, US$34 in court fines, and US$7,200 in compensation to Ms. Johnalyn Malibago.
“The Embassy views this case as an important legal precedent in Lebanon, being the first conviction of a Lebanese employer for the abusive treatment of a migrant worker, who significantly happened to be a Filipino,” Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Mohd. Noordin Pendosina N. Lomondot said.
During the Lebanon-Israel crisis in 2006, Welfare Officer Mario Antonio rescued Ms. Malibago from her Lebanese employer who was beating her up as she tried to escape Farez’s car around 200 meters away from the Sassine Evacuation Center in Beirut. Mr. Antonio is a Lebanese employee of the Beirut office of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and a local volunteer at the evacuation center.
Mr. Antonio discovered bruises on Malibago’s body. She was immediately brought to the hospital for treatment by then Labor Attaché Glenda Manalo and another Welfare Officer from Riyadh.
The Embassy had coordinated with the Caritas Migrant Center, an international NGO branch in Lebanon specializing in the welfare of migrant workers, mostly women, for filing and pursuing the case against Farez.
“It also serves to affirm that many Lebanese are working hard for the recognition and protection of the rights of migrant workers, and that the efforts of human rights groups has begun to take effect in Lebanon’s judiciary,” Chargé d’Affaires Lomondot said.
The Philippine Embassy official also expressed hope that the case would push the Lebanese government to enact laws and regulations to protect the rights of migrant domestic workers.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Exerpts on Lebanon from HRW's Protection of Migrants’ Rights in 2009

Human Rights Watch, December 16, 2009

Exerpt on Lebanon:

There are an estimated 200,000 domestic workers, primarily from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Ethiopia in Lebanon. New arrivals have also come from Nepal, Madagascar and Bangladesh. The restrictive kafeel residency system has direct implications for a domestic worker's ability to have recourse to the Lebanese justice system. Disputes between employers and migrant workers regularly take years to be adjudicated by courts. Human Rights Watch research found that at least 45 migrant domestic workers died in Lebanon in 2008, a majority of whom committed suicide or died while trying to escape in a hazardous way.[4] The high death rate persisted in 2009 with at least eight domestic workers dying in October alone.[5]

In January 2009, the Ministry of Labor finally introduced a standard employment contract that clarifies certain terms and conditions of employment for domestic workers, such as the maximum number of daily working hours, the need for a 24-hour rest period each week, and paid sick leave. While the standard contract is a step forward, there are no clear enforcement mechanisms, and the contract is vague or omits the worker's right to leave the workplace and retain her passport.

Human Rights Watch recommends the Lebanese government:
  • Amend the labor code to provide comprehensive legal protections for domestic workers, and for the Ministry of Labor to create an inspection unit tasked with monitoring working conditions for migrant domestic workers.
  • Reform sponsorship laws that require the consent of the employer to change sponsors. Facilitate transfer of sponsorship by making temporary, employment-based visas issued to a migrant nonspecific with respect to the migrant's employer.
  • Enact legislation that sets up a quick and simplified dispute resolution mechanism to settle salary disputes between employers and migrant workers. In addition, grant migrant workers temporary visas (or an alternative to detention) while they have pending legal procedures.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

List of proposed solutions to insure the rights of foreign maids in Lebanon

The following is a listing solutions and measures meant to secure the fundamental rights of female migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. These proposals have been collected in reports, studies and press releases from Human Right Watch, the International Labour Organization and Caritas-Lebanon. They address to the Lebanese government, foreign missions of the sending countries, private and public institutions or associations, businesses and NGOs.

  • Revise labour laws to include migrant domestic workers on an equal basis as Lebanese citizens regarding to labour international protection standards.
  • Revise sponsorship laws (make temporary professional visas non specific about the employer so that the migrant worker can escape him without losing legal status; eliminate exit laissez-passer that require consent of the employer).
  • Have Lebanon ratify and enforce the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
  • Establish a unified autonomous governmental bureau responsible for policy-making and information-gathering on migrant workers in the country (guidelines for other departments; data collecting through polls and inquiries; cooperation of migrants’ rights group…).
  • Inter-government cooperation between Lebanon and sending countries to improve the standardized work contract (set up in January 2009) which should be written in the native language of both the employer and the employee and which should enshrine more strictly several fundamental guarantees (remuneration, working conditions, freedom of movement, conservation of passports, work and rest hours…) and implement legal mechanisms to enforce it on a daily basis.
  • Monitoring working and living conditions of female migrant domestic workers in Lebanese households for example through regular meetings between an appointed labour inspector and the worker alone or through unexpected checking visits by officials, thus enforcing the standard employment contract’s provisions.
  • Sign-up bilateral agreements for swift repatriation in case of serious abuse or withholding of the worker’s identity papers by the employer.
  • Arrange « safe houses » (particularly in sending countries’ embassies) providing legal and social assistance to female migrant domestic workers and their children (accommodation for “runaway” maids; health care; trauma counseling; free of charge lawyers; recreational activities; awareness sessions on migrant’s rights and mechanisms of complaint and redress; vocational training and schooling; activities shared with Lebanese people in order to promote inter-nationality dialogue and respect).
  • Expand microfinance loans allowing female migrant domestic workers to pay off their debts at home and thus giving them the opportunity to escape financial traps (which restrain them to accept abuse and appalling working and living conditions) and to pay for migration costs thus lowering financial pressure on Lebanese employers (whom therefore should be less keen on protecting their investment by seizing the maid’s passport and restricting her freedom of movements).
  • Provide police forces with training to identify and respond to abuse against migrant domestic workers (conduct real investigations rather than classifying abuse cases; properly investigate cases of suicide among domestic workers; make sure abused workers fill in complaints form; send runaways to their foreign diplomatic mission rather than drive them back to their employer).
  • Provide migrant domestic workers with information about their rights (and especially detainees for false accusation of theft or illegal status after running away).
  • Improve courts liability and efficiency regarding cases of abuse against foreign domestic workers (ensure the presence of competent translators during legal proceedings; granting abused domestic workers with free legal assistance and representation; clarify and enforce complaint mechanisms; establish precedents regarding such strategic issues as withholding of passports and wages, physical and psychological abuse, poor living conditions and exploitative working hours and chores; mete out and implement proper penalties for employers and agencies violating migrant’s and laborer’s rights; invoke adequate provisions within criminal law and international conventions).
  • Raise national awareness and attention on this issue (set up public media campaigns, focusing for example on drawing parallel with the Lebanese people’s own experience of emigration and on fighting racism which is deeply linked with female domestic workers’ lot, and get judges to make public statements and warnings).
  • Enact special clauses within the staff rules of Lebanese private and public institutions, associations and firms and ensuring the registration and decent treatment of foreign domestic employees under threat of disciplinary measures.
  • Regulate and monitor employment agencies (license-accreditation procedures; hold agents responsible for their actions; set forth clearly defined fees and placement practices…)
  • Ensure any medical testing or administration of contraceptive medication is performed with informed consent and respecting confidentiality of medical information

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Daily Star: Landmark case lands Lebanese woman in jail for beating migrant maid

Daily Star staff, Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BEIRUT: A Lebanese woman was sentenced by a Batroun court to 15 days in prison this week after being found guilty of beating a Filipino maid working in her home. The accused, who has been identified only by her initials F.S., was also asked to pay a court fine of $34 and a further $7,200 in compensation to Philippines national Jonalin Malibago, by presiding judge Munir Suliman on December 9.

Malibago worked for the woman between February 2006 and July 2006 in her home in Achrafieh, Beirut, during which time she sustained bruises to her head, chest, back legs and arms.

The bruises were first noticed when Malibago was hospitalized in June 2006. Her employer told doctors she suffered from a blood disease known as Thalassemia, which could account for the injuries.

A medical report later commissioned by the Beirut Appeals Prosecutor confirmed the bruises were in fact caused by direct blows. The Batroun court last week ruled that they were sustained from the continuous beatings she was subject to by her employer while she worked as a maid in her home.

Malibago returned to the Philippines in late 2006 after filing the complaint and the court rejected the accused’s request to have her return in order to stand trial in Lebanon.

Nadim Houry, a migrant rights researcher for the US-based Human Rights Watch, sees the ruling as an important step in fighting this widespread abuse of migrant workers and expressed hope that the verdict would act as a precedent for future cases.

“The fact that a prison sentence was passed – even if it was only 15 days – will act as a deterrent to others,” Houry said. “The judiciary has been somewhat absent in the past but the judge in this case made the right decision, people need to be afraid of being named and shamed,” he added.

However, Houry expressed concern that a number of obstacles still prevent migrant workers from filing lawsuits against their employers, such as the high financial costs incurred and the prolonged procedures required for investigation.

“Many victims are forced to leave Lebanon before seeing justice, as the case takes so long to reach trial stage,” Houry said.

Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud said last week during a meeting with the Philippines, Ethiopian and Sri Lankan embassies in Beirut that the ministry intended to take their own measures in cases of abuse of domestic workers “out of utter respect for human rights.”

A recent report released by Human Rights Watch shows that at least one woman dies a week in Lebanon, while many more are injured trying to escape abusive employers and harsh working conditions.

In the past year, Ethiopia, Nepal and the Philippines took the step of banning all travel to the country due to the high number of suspicious deaths among the domestic worker community. – The Daily Star

"It's been two years that I didn't sing and dance and forget about work and madam"


"It's been two years that I didn't sing and dance and forget about work and madam" was the comment of Rachel Worko, an Ethiopian maid in Lebanon who attended a party for Ethiopians and Sudanese in Saida.
The event was reported today by Al-Akhbar newspaper and by The Daily Star. Ethiopian singer Ahmad Shumi had set the room on fire with his singing. The Ethiopians sang Sudanese songs, and the Sudanese sang Ethiopian songs, contributing to the cultural exchange between the two communities.
Image published in Al-Akhbar newspaper. Below are excerpts from the Daily Star article.

Sudanese, Ethiopian workers find reprieve at Sidon restaurant party By Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star staff, Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SIDON: Songs, laughter and dancing are not uncommon in Sidon’s many restaurants, but the festivities at one establishment on Sunday were unique because they gathered Ethiopian and Sudanese workers for what could be considered one of their rare days of freedom. Men and women raised their voices and moved their feet, celebrating an event they dubbed “It’s my day off. It’s my day to sing and dance.” Ethiopian singer Ahmad Shumi sang songs of love in Amharic and called on his lost lover to come back while other guests danced to his melodies and forgot the hardships they often face in the homes of unjust Lebanese employers.

Life outside the walls of the Sidon restaurant is frequently harsh for foreign workers in Lebanon, many of whom are domestic workers. Many are believed to be forced to work for long hours without leaving the house of their employer and to suffer other sorts of abuse.

(...)

HoweverSunday was a cheerful day and an opportunity to meet new people. That was the case for Mohammad, a Sudanese citizen, and Gigi, an Ethiopian, who met on the dance floor and soon declared their love for one another. The party was very well organized with a lower entrance fee for women than for men because female foreign workers are paid less, as Mohammad Massar explained. “The aim of this gathering is to meet, have fun, unload the burdens of work and strengthen the ties between the two diasporas,” he added. The women also found in the celebration an opportunity to wear their best clothes and show off their looks. “Look how beautiful we can be outside of work,” said Moha Clomon. “Not only Lebanese women are pretty. Just wait to see us when we’re not working,” she added.

(...)

Ethiopians sang to Sudanese songs and vice versa as everyone remembered their homeland and the families they left behind. An Ethiopian worker explained that her country had love, dance and happiness but only lacked those dollar bills that Lebanon could provide. “These are stolen moments of joy for us,” said Inrahim Issac, a Sudanese engineer working at a Lebanese contracting company.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Reflections on the sentencing of a Lebanese for beating her maid

Is it possible that it took a war (the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon) to catch a sadistic Lebanese woman severely beating her maid, and to bring her to justice? The court relied on eyewitness accounts of what happened in front of the Filipino embassy, the fainting of the maid and the consequent medical reports at the hospital to which she was carried. Can't we have a more normal way to uncover the beating and ill-treatment of foreign maids in Lebanese homes?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lebanese woman sentenced to prison for beating her Filipino maid

On 9 December 2009, a criminal court judge (single judge) in Batroun sentenced a Lebanese woman who beat the Filipino maid who was working at her home to 15 days of prison, to a fine of fifty thousand Lebanese Pounds, and to payment to Jonalin Malibago, the Filipino maid, of ten million and eight hundred Lebanese Pounds in compensation.

Al-Akhbar newspaper declared it “victory of the judiciary” and hailed it as an important step on the road to fighting racist behavior of some Lebanese. What gave the sentencing importance is the presence of the victim in her home country, the Philippine. The judge refused the request of the Lebanese woman to bring the victim in front of the court.

The case dates back to 2006 when the sentenced Lebanese employer brought her maid during the July War to the embassy of Philippine in Ashrafieh, where Filipino nationals were gathering for repatriation because of the absence of security. At the embassy, the Lebanese woman was attacked by embassy officials and other maids, which required the intervention of security officials. Why? Because the Lebanese woman (who’s initials are F. S.) had beaten Jonalin to push her to walk faster while carrying her luggage. Jonalin was taken to hospital after she had fainted. She showed signs of beating and black, blue and yellow bruises.

The medical report that was commissioned by the Beirut Appeals Prosecutor (Criminal prosecutor) from officially authorized doctors confirmed the presence of bruises all over the body of the plaintiff caused by direct shocks. The medical report noted that the she did not have blood diseases.

Between February 2006 and July 2006, Jonalin was working as a housemaid. During that period, her employer, the sentenced woman, took her to doctors, one of which wrote that she had a blood disease, a reduced rate of globins, and preparedness for Thalassemia. This justified the bruises.

The court decision went into medical detail: the average of globins of with Jonalin was 93000 and not 15000 to 30000 where bruises would appear on the limbs. Furthermore, the bruises were on the chest, the back and the head – not only on the limbs. The court decision added that foreign maids have medical checkups prior to beginning work in Lebanon, and would not have been allowed to work if she had diseases.

With the added photos of bruises taken by the officially authorized doctors, the court reached the conviction that the bruises were due to continuous beating by the Lebanese employer.

Jonalin had left Lebanon to the Philippines on August 16, 2006 and was given justice on December 9, 2009.

Note: this is a resume translation of Al-Akhbar’s article published December 12, 2009

“المحكمة تعاقب لبنانية ضربت فيليبينية” http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/169038/

Frequently asked questions on women migrant domestic workers in Lebanon ILO Beirut Aug 31 09

Frequently asked questions on women migrant domestic workers in Lebanon ILO Beirut Aug 31 09

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The “syndicate of bringing in maids”, the consul of Madagascar and "unfortunate excesses"

A meeting was held between the “syndicate of bringing in maids” in Lebanon and the consul of Madagascar, to discuss the way to cooperate, following the decision of the Government of Madagascar to ban sending Malagasy women maids to Lebanon as it would – according to the article published on the National News Agency website – have negative repercussions on the sector and on a large number of Lebanese families. An accord was reached, always according to the same article, for cooperation between the syndicate and the consul to control the unfortunate excesses that took place recently.

Ethiopian Suicides comments: I wonder if they meant suicide, torture, deprivation of salary and of freedom of movement, by "unfortunate excesses". The syndicate of importing maids is clearly fearing to loose money after several countries banned their women nationals to come to Lebanon.

نقابة اصحاب مكاتب استقدام الخادمات بحثت مع قنصل مدغشقر سبل التعاون,” National News Agency, December 8, 2009, http://www.nna-leb.gov.lb/phpfolder/loadpage.php?page=JOU47.html

عقدت نقابة اصحاب مكاتب استقدام الخادمات في لبنان، اجتماعا مع قنصل دولة مدغشقر في لبنان، وتم البحث في موضوع قرار سلطات مدغشقر بمنع وحظر ارسال عاملات منازل الى لبنان وارتداداته السلبية على القطاع، وعلى قسم كبير من العائلات اللبنانية، وتم الاتفاق بموجبه على تفعيل التعاون بين النقابة ودولة مدغشقر ممثلة بالقنصلية العامة في لبنان لضبط التجاوزات المؤسفة التي حصلت في الآونة الاخيرة.

Photo from a vigil held last Sunday on the spot where a foreign maid died

The migrant worker committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of the house of her employers.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I was busy cooking dinner

I was busy cooking dinner, when we started hearing screams - only one person, repeatedly, a female voice, screaming - maybe 10-15 seconds. This is not normal, so I ran out to the balcony to see if I could see what was going on. As I got onto the balcony, I looked over at the next building, and saw something, fairly large coming from a balcony on about the 6th floor. The window was open (actually may have been a door, but not sure in my mind) was open. I looked down toward the parking lot to see if I could see what had fallen, and couldn't see everything, as our balcony doesn't have a clear view. I could see reflections of a few people off the windows of a vehicle, and they weren't reacting very much, seemed sort of like they were checking things out, but disinterested. so i figured it was just a piece of furniture, tv, something like that. There was no screaming or response of any kind. This was around 6 or 615 I'm guessing. Around 8, my husband and I left the building, and we ran into a neighbor, who told us that a domestic worker had "thrown herself" from the balcony of the 6th floor. She was corrected (in Arabic) by another neighbor, who said it was a visitor of the domestic worker, her sister or something. Not sure what the actual story is. When we left the building and walked into the parking lot area, there was a policeman standing at the front of the vehicle next to where she fell, seemingly not doing anything. The woman was still on the ground with just a blanket covering her. This was almost 2 hours later. When we returned home around 1230 in the morning, there was a car parked in the space where she had been, and the area was wet, so it looked like they had "cleaned up" the area.

(this testimony was published on a Facebook event page "Vigil in Hamra". The December 2009 event was a vigil at the site of the death of the migrant worker who is mentioned in the testimony above)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lebanon’s Minister of Interior makes promises to improve migrant rights

Yesterday, Ziad Baroud, Lebanon’s Minister of Interior, informed the ambassadors of Philippine, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka that his ministry will be taking steps towards the protection of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. Such steps include moving the General Security prisons from Adlieh area (a prison under a traffic bridge) to another location more respective of human rights, as well as more thorough investigations in cases of death of these workers. Sources to Al-Akhbar newspaper added that the right of foreign maids to access courts will be guaranteed.

Note: this is quite an interesting development. Will the minister be up to the challenge of reforming the system of entry, stay and exit of migrant domestic workers,which has proven terribly faulty?

  1. العاملات الأجنبيات: وزارة الداخلية لحمايتهن والنيبال تمنع العمل في لبنان,” Al-Akhbar, December 2, 2009, http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/167511/print
  2. “Baroud discusses migrant rights with embassies,” The Daily Star, December 2, 2009, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=1&article_id=109315

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nepal's self-respecting gov't stops domestic work in Lebanon

In the last eight months, nine Nepali workers have committed suicide because of the torture from their employers, has reported Nepal News. As a result, the Nepalese Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) has decided to stop granting permission to individuals to work as domestic workers in Lebanon.

Kashi Nath Marasini, director of Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE), told myrepublica that the decision was taken with immediate effect from Wednesday [25 November], keeping in view the increasing reports of suicide by Nepali women - who are mostly employed as domestic helps -- and torture meted out to workers by their employers.

Ethiopian Suicides comments: Other sending states have reportedly also prohibited their women from working in Lebanon, BUT HAVE FAILED TO IMPLEMENT their decision, partly because these women go to Dubai first and then to Lebanon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Notes on the Situation of Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon

When I was being interviewed by a journalist from El Mundo (Spain), we somewhat agreed that migrant domestic workers in Lebanon are well treated “in a significant number of homes”. There’s a lot of generalization about the “evil” Lebanese housewives. But 95% of the people I know who have MDWs at home (family, friends) do not mistreat in any way their maids. (There’s one exception though where the women employer suffers the superiority complex like many Lebanese).

So, it’s not all about bad housewives! One aspect of the problem is the complete absence of safety nets for that category of mistreated migrant workers the percentage of which we do not know.

And to illustrate the complication of the problem, I talked with many people about the need for “a hot-line” where beaten maids can call for help. But that hot-line will have to be able to respond in fluent Ethiopian, Sri Lankan, Nepalese, Malagasy, Bengali, Eritrean, Filipino, etc. 24 hours / 7 days. Who’s going to set up and finance that? And we need brochures in all these languages informing of the hot-line.

In one case where a migrant domestic worker dragged to courts several years ago in Lebanon, she couldn’t speak Arabic or English. A French priest who’s involved in migrant rights protection, and had lived in her country, understood her language and was translating to French. And a translator was translating from French to Arabic for the judge and lawyers.

Why does the investigation of the "suicide" of migrant workers ends at "record speed", asks Al-Akhbar

Al-Akhbar newspaper published today a front page article on the suicide cases in the past 6 weeks. It raises questions as to the speed with which the Lebanese investigators conclude that the death was due to suicide of the migrant worker, even in cases when the body is bruised for reasons other than the act of suicide.

In the article, Nadim Houry, senior Human Rights Watch researcher for Lebanon and Syria, said that one mistreated Nepalese maid, who survived a suicide attempt, had looked through the window to the snow on the Lebanese mountains and thought that if she jumped, she would arrive fast to these mountains... in Nepal!

The article suggests solutions to preventing mistreatment of migrant domestic workers. Applying the law which limits the work of MDW to 10 hours per day requires strict monitoring by specialized investigators. Also, the sponsorship system is detrimental to the rights of the migrant worker because if the latter leaves the house of her employer (to report abuse and file a law suite against her employer for example), that worker will loose her residency permit! Escaping the house will make her loose her rights! The sponsorship system has to be modified, or abolished.

Full article in Arabic on this link: http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/166852/print


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Safia D., Bengali, has committed suicide yesterday

Al-Akhbar newspaper has reported today that Safia D., a 26 year old Bengali maid, was found dead in the house of her employers, close to Jbeil (Byblos), hanging from a rope around her neck, tied to a pipe in the heating room of the house. Security reports said that she committed suicide.

This is the 6th or 7th reported suicide of migrant domestic workers since October 09.

“وفاة عاملة بنغالية,” Al-Akhbar, November 24, 2009, http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/166561/print

عُثر على جثة العاملة البنغالية صافية د. (26 عاماً) مشنوقة بحبل ملفوف حول عنقها، ومعلق بقسطل داخل غرفة الشوفاج في منزل مشغليها قرب جبيل. وجاء في تقارير أمنية أن صافية انتحرت.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Article: MDWs Dying on the Job in Lebanon

Dalila Mahdawi published yesterday an article on IPS News on Migrant Women Dying on the Job in Lebanon. The following is an excerpt.


BEIRUT, Nov 21 (IPS) - October and November have been bloody months for Lebanon's migrant domestic workers - over the last five weeks nine women have died. Most deaths have been reported as suicide.

The body of 20-year old Anget R. of Madagascar was found hanging from a rope at her employer's bedroom door Nov. 11. A newspaper in Madagascar reported the deaths of two other Malagasy women in October. One, identified only as Mampionona, was said to have fallen from the balcony of her employer's house. The other, identified as Vololona, died after reportedly jumping from the balcony.

Sunit Bholan of Nepal, who was 22, allegedly committed suicide Oct. 8. Ethiopian Kassaye Etsegenet, 23, died after reportedly jumping from the seventh floor of her employer's house Oct. 15. She left behind a suicide note citing personal reasons.

On Oct. 21, 26-year-old Zeditu Kebede Matente of Ethiopia was found dead, hanging from an olive tree. Two days later 30-year old Saneet Mariam also of Ethiopia died after allegedly falling from the balcony of her employer's house.

The list goes on: Nepalese national Mina Rokaya, 24, and then Tezeta Yalmoya of Ethiopia, 26 – who also died, it was said, when she fell from the balcony.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Newspapers fail to follow up on last week's suicide case

Since Al-Akhbar's 2 line reporting on the suicide of a Madagascari domestic workers in the Maten area, no follow up, by any Lebanese newspaper, was done. NOTHING was written to clarify the circumstances of her death.

منذ نشر جريدة الأخبار سطرين عن انتحار خادمة من مدغسقر الأسبوع الماضي، لم ينشر أي تقرير أو مقال يوضح ملابسات الحادث في أي جريدة لبنانية

Three-way communication between 3 migrant domestic workers in Beirut

Three-way communication between 3 migrant domestic workers in Beirut. They were shouting to each other, enjoying the privacy of their common language that no one understands, or that if someone understands it, he would be considered part of the "team". Each maid works in a different home, in two buildings in Beirut.

The "phenomena" of maids socializing on the balconies is widespread in Beirut. I notice it in many areas where buildings are close to each other. It's one of their few moments of getting in touch with "the outside world". They seemed pretty ok, not mistreated.





Photos: Lanka Market, a Sri Lankan shop in Beirut

Selling food and clothes and many more items.



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Al-Akhbar newspaper reports the suicide of 20 year old maid from Madagascar

Al-Akhbar newspaper reported today the body of Anget R. (20 years old, from Madagascar) was found hanging from a rope at the bedroom door of her employers in one of the Maten villages (Mount Lebanon). Al-Akhbar added that initial information indicate that she hung herlself.

Despite last week's big media buzz, locally and internationally, and after Human Rights Watch's press release on the high number of migrant workers deaths in October 09, Al-Akhbar only gave 2 lines for the news! It seems that only Al-Akhbar newspaper has reported this information.

“وفاة عاملة أجنبية... شنقاً,” Al-Akhbar, November 12, 2009

وفاة عاملة أجنبية... شنقاً
عُثر على جثة أنجيت ر. (20 عاماً ـــــ من مدغشقر) معلّقة بواسطة حبل عند باب غرفة نوم مشغّليها في إحدى قرى المتن. جاء في تقارير أمنية أن «المعلومات الأوّلية تشير إلى أنها شنقت نفسها».

Ethiopian Review on the death of Ethiopian maids in Lebanon: Check the comments!

Ethiopian Review has copy/pasted a couple of articles in English on the death of Ethiopian maids in Lebanon. I'd appreciate if you read the comments of Ethiopians under these articles, just to get a sort of feedback from Ethiopians.

One comment says: "the suicides committed by the Ethiopian maids, should be considered murders because their employer were the cause of these unfortunate cases. It seems that these women thought they escaped from struggle and poverty at home when they arrived at Lebanon. They didn't leave their home land because they wanted to, but because poverty and lack of work made them look else where for improvement."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thoughts on Media Coverage of Workers Deaths

After reading so many articles in English about the death of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, I started wondering who are we raising awareness of? The international community or the Lebanese population? Do housewives or General Security officers read The Daily Star (see below) and the Guardian (see below) and the LA Times?

In addition to a "target" problem, there's also a lack of "solutions" on the table.

Why doesn't the General Security (in charge of all foreigners in Lebanon) create a special team of women officers (or department - but I doubt it is feasible without a law) dedicated to following up on the situation and living conditions of female migrant domestic workers in Lebanon? Why doesn't the GS do spot checks in the homes of employers, just like its standard investigations of foreigners applying for residency? Why doesn't the media put pressure on the GS or even the Internal Security Forces (Police) to do their job?

Human Rights Watch suggested developing a government strategy for "combating the practice of forced confinement, providing a labor ministry hotline for the workers, appointing labor inspectors, and improving working conditions and labor law protections."

We must put the pressure on government bodies to force respect of fundamental human rights in Lebanese homes.

إثر قراءة كل هذه المقالات باللغة الإنجليزية عن سوء معاملة العاملات الأجانب في لبنان، بدأت أتساءل إذا كان ربات المنزل أو ضباط الأمن العام يقرأون ذي غارديان أو الدايلي ستار أو غيرها من الصحف الناطقة باللغة الإنجليزية

إضافة إلى مشكلة "المستهدف"، هناك نقص في الحلول المطروحة. لماذا مثلا لا يخلق الأمن العام اللبناني جهازا أو فريقا مؤلف من ظابطات نساء يتابعن وضع العاملات الأجانب في لبنان ويقمن بزيارات للمنازل كما في التحقيقات في طلبات الإقامة لأي أجنبي؟ لماذا لا يضغط الإعلام على الأمن العام وقوى الأمن الداخلي كي تقوم بواجباتها؟

منظمة هيومن رايتس واتش اقترحت اسراتيجية تشمل مكافحة ممارسات الحبس داخل المنزل، وتوفير خط ساخن للعاملات لتقديم الشكاوى، وتعيين مفتشي عمل، وتحسين أوضاع العمل وضمانات الحماية في قانون العمل

يجب أن نضغط على المؤسسات الحكومية اللبناني كي تفرض احترام حقوق الإنسان في المنازل اللبنانية

Video: Migrant workers face abuse in Lebanon - 22 Aug 09

Women worked to death in Lebanon (guadian.co.uk)

Dalila Mahdawi, Beirut based journalist, wrote for The Guardian, on the deaths of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, on Tuesday 10 November 2009.


Quote:

Four Ethiopian domestic workers are thought to have killed themselves in three weeks. Lebanon must protect these women.

(...)

The spate of suicides has become so bad in recent weeks it prompted Lebanese blogger Wissam to launch the grimly named Ethiopian Suicides blog. The website is dedicated to monitoring media reports on the deaths of foreign migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. "I have a dream," Wissam says. "That migrant domestic workers will be treated humanely in Lebanon and will stop trying to commit or committing suicide."

In the last three weeks alone, Wissam notes, four Ethiopian women have died. Lebanese police say the deaths of Kassaye Atsegenet, 24, Saneet Mariam, 30, Matente Kebede Zeditu, 26, Tezeta Yalmiya, 26 were probably suicides. But as human rights activists here will testify, the truth about what happened to them may never be known because police usually only take into account the employer's testimony. Migrants who survive abuse or suicide attempts are not usually provided with a translator, meaning their version of events often does not get registered with officials.

(...)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Daily Star: Alarming trend of domestic worker deaths persists

(...)
The growing pattern has not gone unnoticed, and one concerned Lebanese citizen has even set up a blog, “Ethiopian Suicides,” to catalogue incoming reports of deaths in the migrant community. The blog calls for Lebanese to treat their domestic workers “more humanely to stop them from killing themselves,” and has received support from human-rights groups in the region.
(...)


Full article:

Alarming trend of domestic worker deaths persists
By Josie Ensor
Daily Star staff
Monday, November 09, 2009
Link to original file: http://dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=31&article_id=108457


BEIRUT: At least six domestic migrant workers are believed to have committed suicide in the past month in Lebanon. But rather than being anomalies, their deaths are the most recent in an alarming trend. According to Human Rights Watch, more than one female migrant worker dies a week on average, and many more are injured trying to escape harsh working conditions in the country.
Last month, 26-year-old Ethiopian Matente Kebede Zeditu, was found hanged from an olive tree in Harouf, southern Lebanon. Ram Embwe, a 23-year-old Nepalese national, fell from the building where she worked in the Beirut suburb of Shiah a few days later, and Kassaye Atsegenet, 24, reportedly jumped from a seventh floor balcony in the neighborhood of Gemmayzeh in an attempt to free herself from the home in which she felt a prisoner.
“There is a clear pattern here and it can’t be ignored,” says Nadim Houry, a migrant rights researcher with the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW). “People try to pass off suicides among migrant workers, particularly the Ethiopian community – saying that they are crazy and have higher suicide rates anyway, but you cannot attribute this to national characteristics.”
Human-rights advocates in the region believe these women are either pushed to suicide by poor working condition and abuse from with their employers or fall while attempting to escape. It is not uncommon practice for these migrant maids to have their passports taken away, or to be locked inside for years at a time by those who employ them.
There are believed to be over 200,000 domestic workers in Lebanon, many of whom are smuggled from Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Philippines and Ethiopia. In the last year, both Ethiopia and the Philippines took the step of banning travel to Lebanon due to the high number of suspicious deaths among the domestic worker community.
The ban has only pushed the trade underground, however, and agencies in the two countries are now sending women through third countries like Yemen.
Lebanon’s Labor Ministry attempted to tightened legislation on foreign workers in January this year by introducing a standard contract, but Houry says they have failed to enforce the new rights with commissioning bodies and watchdogs.
But, as Houry points out, the deaths of these female workers are the effect, not the cause. “It is the tip of an iceberg- a manifestation of the real underlying problem and this problem runs deep in our society.”
Houry says a culmination of isolation from the outside world, the lack of privacy the women experience, coupled with the feeling there is no way out, leads women to take these drastic steps.
“Most of them sign a two to three year contract, where the employer pays up to $2,000, so when they realize they are unhappy after a couple of months and want to leave they can’t as they cannot afford to pay the money back. That is how they get trapped.
“They end up taking enormous risks to escape and it results in death.”
The growing pattern has not gone unnoticed, and one concerned Lebanese citizen has even set up a blog, “Ethiopian Suicides,” to catalogue incoming reports of deaths in the migrant community. The blog calls for Lebanese to treat their domestic workers “more humanely to stop them from killing themselves,” and has received support from human-rights groups in the region.
But, Lebanon cannot take all the blame for these women’s deaths.
Houry says agencies in the countries supplying workers go into the rural areas to lure recruits by knowingly giving them false impressions of work in the Middle East.
“For these [recruiters] the logic of profit outweighs the well-being of the person, and they will tell them anything to get them to come,” Houry says. “They forget there are people involved and it isn’t just a business.”
The site that reported the deaths of two Madagascan girls, Madagascar Online, even describes the situation tragedies as a paradisiacal holiday gone horribly wrong.
“The Lebanese adventure ended in a graveyard for Vololona and Mampionona,” the author writes. “The Lebanese paradise promised by recruitment agencies to Malagasy workers proves to be closer to hell than expected.”
One of the girls, a young 21-year-old mother named locally only as Mampionona, left Madagascar to work for a Lebanese family only a month before her death. In that short time she worked here, she wrote home saying she was forced to work long hours, often until 2 a.m, and was rarely allowed outside the house.
In almost all of the cases, including Mampionona’s, the police verdict has been suicide. However, both Migrant Rights, a group campaigning for migrants working in the Middle East, and Human Rights Watch, are questioning the cause of death.
Fatima Gomar, editor of Migrant-Rights.org, told The Daily Star that “the immediate course should be to investigate suicides of migrant workers as possible homicides, with the employer as the main suspect. If the investigation shows that the maid was mistreated by her employer, [they] must face consequences.”
Gomar and Houry agree that authorities need to conduct more thorough investigations into these cases in order to first rule out the possibility of murder.
Police should hold employers, agencies and embassies to account for domestic workers, Houry says, and “until there are proper investigations into these incidents, these needless deaths will continue.”

HRW reports on Deadly Month for Domestic Workers in Lebanon

November 9, 2009 - The Lebanese government should investigate the deaths of eight migrant domestic workers during October 2009, as well as the reasons for the disproportionately high death rate among this group of workers, Human Rights Watch said today. An estimated 200,000 domestic workers, primarily from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Ethiopia, work in Lebanon.


Full press release بالعربي: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/11/09-0

The report includes the following details about Deaths of Migrant Domestic Workers in October 2009:

On October 8, Sunit Bholan of Nepal, 22, reportedly committed suicide.

On October 16, Kassaye Etsegenet of Ethiopia, 23, died after reportedly jumping from the seventh floor of a building on Charles Helou avenue in Beirut. Etsegenet left a suicide note in which she states that her decision was based on personal reasons, in particular, a fight with another member of her family.

On October 21, Zeditu Kebede Matente of Ethiopia, 26, was found dead in the town of Haris hanging from an olive tree.

On October 23, Saneet Mariam of Ethiopia, 30, died after falling from the balcony of her employer's house in the town of Mastita.

On October 23, Mina Rokaya, of Nepal, 24, died after being transferred from her employer's house in Blat to a hospital. The police report says that she died from a heart attack.

On October 28, Tezeta Yalmoya of Ethiopia, 26, died after falling from the third floor of the apartment building where she worked in `Abra, next to Saida. According to reports in local papers, she fell while cleaning the balcony.

Newspapers in Madagascar reported the deaths of two Malagasy women in Lebanon in October. The first worker, identified as Mampionona, reportedly fell from the third floor while cleaning the balcony. She had arrived in Lebanon on September 1. The other, identified as Vololona, died after reportedly jumping from the fourth floor.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ethiopian maid beaten by Lebanese Internal Security Forces

Al-Akhbar newspaper reported today that an Ethiopian maid was beaten and insulted at the hands of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF - Police) at the police station of Mina El Hosn in Beirut, according to witnesses.
When Al-Akhbar contacted the officer in charge, he replied shouting: you do not have the right to ask about that!
Later, Al-Akhbar found out that she was arrested for not having ID papers.


ضرب وإهانة عاملة إثيوبية في مخفر

تعرّضت سيدة إثيوبية للضرب المبرّح والإذلال على يد رجال قوى الأمن الداخلي، يوم الثلاثاء في الثانية والربع ظهراً، في مخفر ميناء الحصن الكائن في منطقة برج المر، وذلك بحسب شهود عيان. ووفقاً للشهود أنفسهم، فإن رجال الأمن ادّعوا أن السيدة الإثيوبية كانت قد تعرّضت لهم، ما برّر بنظرهم الاعتداء عليها. وقد اتصلت “الأخبار” بالمخفر المذكور، من دون أن يجيب أحد. فاتصلت بالضابط المسؤول، الرائد و.أ.ح. فلم يبادر إلى نفي الحادثة، بل أجاب بنبرة مرتفعة وحادة “لا يحق لكم السؤال عن ذلك”، علماً أن المتصل عرّف عن نفسه بأنه صحافي، وتبيّن لاحقاً أن سبب توقيف السيدة الإثيوبية هو عدم حيازتها أوراقاً ثبوتية.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TheMediaLine: Suicide Trend Among Lebanese Maids Gets Worse

This article interviews senior Human Rights Watch researcher for Lebanon and Syria, Nadim Houry (and not migrant worker researcher), and ADDS INFORMATION AND DETAILS ON CASES previously syndicated on our blog. Most probably, it's Nadim's research.

Suicide Trend Among Lebanese Maids Gets WorseWritten by Benjamin Joffe-Walt
Published Monday, November 02, 2009


http://www.themedialine.org/news/print_news_detail.asp?NewsID=26970

Four suspected suicides within two weeks comes one year after critical report citing high rates of suicide by domestic workers in Lebanon.

Four Ethiopian domestic workers in Lebanon are believed to have committed suicide over the past two weeks.

The news comes one year after an extensive report on working conditions for migrant domestic workers in Lebanon found one female maid to be dying in the country every week.

"It seems that things have simply not changed," Nadim Houry, a migrant workers researcher with the US-based Human Rights Watch, told The Media Line. "The rate we found last year was very alarming and we are still alarmed by the rate of deaths we are seeing, which look similar if not worse than last year."

Two of the four cases over the last two weeks have been confirmed suicides.

The first, 26-year-old Matente Kebede Zeditu, was found to have hung herself from an olive tree in Harif, Southern Lebanon. Ethiopian diplomats in Beirut had no record that Zeditu was in Lebanon.

Ethiopian women are regularly trafficked via Djibouti, Egypt and Somalia for domestic servitude, particularly to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.Labor rights advocates say an underworld of unregistered Ethiopian workers has been created since the Ethiopian government banned its citizens from traveling to Lebanon last year, a move taken after the deaths of a number of Ethiopian domestic workers in the country.

"Many are still coming and agents in both Ethiopia and Lebanon have found ways to get around the ban, often by sending migrant workers through third countries like Yemen," Houry said. "So we tried to go to the consulate but they just didn't have any information."

The second case, 24-year-old Kassaye Atsegenet, jumped from the seventh floor of a building in downtown Beirut and left a suicide note. The police officially reported the suicide as the result of a spat between Atsegenet and her sister.The third case, 26-year-old Tezeta Yalmiya, died under suspicious circumstances after falling from the third floor of a building in Abra, near the city of Saida. It is unclear whether Yalmiya accidentally fell, was attempting to escape, or was pushed.

"All we know is that supposedly she was trying to clean and she fell," Houry said. "Cases where it's intentional homicide are rare, but it does happen. Usually, though, it's either suicide, an attempt to escape down the outer walls using TV cables and they just fall or they are asked to do dangerous work."

Little is known about the final case, 30-year-old Saneet Mariam, a fourth Ethiopian national who died in the town of Mastita.

"There are some clear cases where you can tie the causes of death or suicide to abuse by the employers," Houry said. "In many other cases the direct causation is not as clear because there are a number of things going on. But when you have a pattern of suicide like this you can't just attribute it to individual depression, it points to a more systemic issue driving these women to commit suicide."

"There are clearly a number of women who kill themselves because of workplace conditions," he continued. "The isolation that these women feel, and that they have no support structure, is a clear factor here. In most cases they have no privacy, don't have a day off, don't have the ability to talk to anyone else and their work conditions are so bad these women kind of lose their appetite to live."

Houry argued that much of the problem lies in the false expectations many migrant domestic workers are given prior to their arrival in Lebanon. Many workers pay hundreds of dollars expecting high-level business jobs.

"The women who are being sent overseas don't know what to expect," he said. "They've been promised things that are not true and they end up feeling trapped. They may decide they miss family and want to go back, but the employer does various things to put pressure on them to continue working and they see no way out but to commit suicide."

There are believed to be around 200,000 domestic workers in Lebanon and a Human Rights Watch investigation last year found that more than one domestic worker was dying every week in the country. Half of the deaths were Ethiopian women, who make up less than a quarter of the domestic workers in Lebanon.

The report found that while most Lebanese employers treated domestic workers well, many were found to withhold workers' passports, withhold salaries, forbid workers from leaving the house. Cases of abuse, both verbal and physical, were also common.

Labor rights advocates say that since then the Lebanese government has done very little to stem the tide of deaths, to improve working conditions among migrant domestic workers, or to create an enforcement body to protect foreign workers and prosecute abusive employers.

"What happens with migrant domestic workers is that their rights are not very well protected by national legislation and employers often treat them very badly," Gloria Moreno-Fontes, a senior labor migration specialist with the International Labour Organization told The Media Line. "Some advances have been made in Lebanon but incidents like these are very worrying."

"It's an issue of enforcement," Moreno-Fontes stressed. "There is a lack of monitoring and a lack of control over the employers or their intermediaries, such as private agents.»

"The government needs to do more and there needs to be better enforcement of existing laws," she said. "There also needs to be a mechanism to monitor what is going on in the households. In some countries, for example, they permit labor inspectors into the household. But in most Arab countries they would never even consider this option, as the home is seen as within the private sphere and therefore untouchable."

The International Labor Organization plans to push international standards on labor recommendations for domestic laborers in their annual conference next year.

Houry agreed that there was a need for better law enforcement.

"First, there has to be a commission to look into this phenomenon and a hotline set up so that these women can call in to raise a flag before they actually get to the point of committing suicide," he warned. "Then, there needs to be enforcement when the flag is raised."

"While the police always come to investigate, the investigations are very superficial," Houry claimed. "They don't try to figure out if there was a situation of abuse and they don't inquire about the working conditions. They just sort of write it down and move on."

Houry said even after death the families of the departed often face further difficulties.

"Sometimes the bodies sit in a fridge in Lebanon for months," Houry claimed. "Also the insurance companies often refuse to pay to repatriate the bodies."

"There is sometimes just an utter disregard for life," he added. "We found one case in which they sent the wrong person, an Ethiopian worker's body, back to Nepal. When her family opened the casket they realized the mistake."

NowLebanon: Suicidal circumstances

NowLebanon takes note of our small blog and links to us in their article on the suicide of migrant domestic workers. Other links interesting too, as well as interview with HRW's Nadim Houry.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Newspapers add information to the Abra suicide case

Al Liwa' newspaper's October 29 edition has good coverage about the death of an Ethiopian on October 28 (reported earlier on this blog) including a photo of the body on the street (that we won't republish), name and age of the victim, and an account of what happened.

"After the house wife asked her to clean the balcony, the maid carried the bucket and cleaning items and threw them on the balcony and screamed that she doesn't want to work and then jumped from the balcony (third floor) and died when she hit the ground."

Al Liwa's article concluded the maid had been acting nervously lately and that she had tried to commit suicide in the same way previously.

Assafir's October 29 edition only added age and name and said that "it was preparing to clean the balcony" when she fell.

Al-Akhbar's coverage didn't add information but noted that "no name was given" in the National News Agency's coverage, implying that it's just another victim with no name.

As-Safir, October 29, 2009, http://www.assafir.com/Windows/ArticlePrintFriendly.aspx?EditionId=1376&ChannelId=31859&ArticleId=3201.

سـقطت عـن الشـرفة

وقعت الأثيوبية تيزيتا يلميا (26 عاماً) من شرفة منزل مخدومها م.ش. الكائن في الطابق الثالث في «بناية اللؤلؤة» في عبرا – شرق صيدا، ما أدى إلى وفاتها فوراً.
وعلم أن الخادمة الأثيوبية كانت تستعد لتنظيف الشرفة، عندما شوهدت وهي تسقط عنها. وحضرت الأدلة الجنائية والطبيب الشرعي والقوى الأمنية لإجراء التحقيقات اللازمة وتم نقل الجثة إلى مستشفى صيدا الحكومي.



إنتحار أثيوبية في صيدا

صيدا ? ثريا حسن زعيتر: ألقت الأثيوبية تيزيتا سيليكا (مواليد 1983) بنفسها من شرفة منزل مخدومها الرائد في <أطفائية صيدا> مصطفى شمس الدين، الكائن في بلدة عبرا - شرق صيدا من الطابق الثالث في بناية اللؤلؤة ما لبثت أن فارقت الحياة على الفور·

وفي التفاصيل، فإن الخادمة سيليكا وصلت إلى لبنان منذ عشرة أشهر، وكانت تقوم بتنظيف المنزل كعادتها مثل كل يوم حسب ما أفادت به ربة العمل، حيث طلبت منها القيام بتنظيف شرفة المنزل، فحملت عدة التنظيف ورمتها في أرض الشرفة وصرخت بأنها لا تريد أن تعمل، ثم رمت بنفسها عن الطابق الثالث علوي، وما لبثت أن فارقت الحياة بعدما ارتطمت بقوة على الأرض·

وعلى الأثر حضر عناصر من قوى الأمن الداخلي والأدلة الجنائية، وفتحوا تحقيقاً بالحادث، كما حضر فوج من جهاز المتطوعين في الدفاع المدني في <مؤسسة الحريري>، وإسعاف <جمعية الإستجابة> وتم نقل الضحية إلى المستشفى الحكومي في صيدا·

يذكر أن الخادمة المذكورة كانت تتصرف بعصبية في الآونة الأخيرة، وسبق لها أن حاولت الإنتحار بنفس الطريقة·

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

4 Ethiopian suicides in 12 days in Lebanon

With today's Ethiopian suicide in Abra (East of Saida), we have 4 Ethiopian successful suicides THAT HAVE BEEN REPORTED in the past 12 days. This means one successful Ethiopian suicide every 3 days.

We cannot know how many suicide attempts and suicides have went unreported.

Rss feed on "انتحار خادمة" or "domestic worker suicide"

This feed (on the right column of this blog) will include news of MDW suicide not in most Arab countries, while this blog is currently covering only Lebanon.

Ethiopian commits suicide in Abra, East of Saida

The National News Agency has reported today, October 28, that an Ethiopian domestic worker has committed suicide in Abra, East of Saida, by jumping from the third floor. No age or additional information was provided.

National News Agency, October 28, 2009, http://www.nna-leb.gov.lb/phpfolder/loadpage.php?page=JOU85.html

انتحار خادمة اثيوبية في بلدة عبرا - شرقي صيدا

وطنية - أفاد مندوب "الوكالة الوطنية للاعلام" في منطقة صيدا عفيف محمودي "ان خادمة من التابعية الاثيوبية ألقت بنفسها من الطابق الثالث بالقرب من مدرسة الراهبات في منطقة عبرا شرقي صيدا، حيث فارقت الحياة على الفور، وقد تم نقل الجثة الى مستشفى صيدا الحكومي، وهي كانت تعمل عند عائلة من آل شمس الدين".

Assafir published a report on the "import" of migrant domestic workers

Today, Assafir newspaper published a report in the "import" conditions of migrant domestic workers and an account of what happens in Beirut Airport.

في المطار.. حيث قاعة انتظارات المستخدمات: إنتَ موني؟,” As-Safir, October 28, 2009,
http://www.assafir.com/Windows/ArticlePrintFriendly.aspx?EditionId=1375&ChannelId=31835&ArticleId=3077

Ethiopian domestic worker falls from balcony, dies

Al-Akhbar reported on October 24, 2009, the death of an Ethiopian migrant domestic worker who fell from the balcony. She was 30 years old and the reasons for "falling" remain unknown. Could it be suicide?

Al-Akhbar, October 24, 2009, http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/162372/print.

وفاة عاملة إثيوبية لأسباب مجهولة

سقطت الإثيوبية سانيت م. (30 عاماً) من شرفة منزل مشغّليها في مستيتا، ما أدى إلى وفاتها، ولا تزال أسباب السقوط مجهولة.