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.

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