Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Press release: Female migrant domestic workers face abuse in Lebanon

Danish Refugee Council and partner organisation KAFA (enough) Violence & Exploitation are working hard to raise awareness on the poor living and working conditions of the estimated 200,000 migrant domestic workers and to support those of them who are victims of abuse in Lebanon.

Since the early 90s, an increasing number of women from countries including Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Ethiopia temporarily work in Lebanon - often with the hope of helping their children and families back home.

"Female migrant workers in Lebanon are living without adequate legal rights and are frequent victims of discrimination and abuse. We are working on several levels to improve their conditions. Through research, public events and media campaigns, we try to change attitudes towards migrant workers in Lebanese society, and inform migrant women of their rights and help them to assert these rights", says Allen Jelich, DRC’s Country Director in Lebanon.

Female migrant domestic workers in Lebanon suffer from both formal legislative discrimination and a general negative or indifferent attitude from employers and the wider community.

"Migrant domestic workers are excluded from the Lebanese Labour Law and therefore do not benefit from its protection. Private employment agencies recruit and place women in Lebanese households without effective monitoring by the State, and workers’ legal status is solely linked to their employers. These conditions create a situation in which abuse takes place within households without any recourse to justice for these women," says KAFA director Zoya Rouhana.

Over 50% of the women work more than 12 hours per day and 40% have no regular time off. According to findings of a study commissioned by KAFA, 88% of employers keep their employee’s passport, 31% lock their employee in the house, and 80% do not allow their employee to leave the house on her day off. One domestic worker per week dies, usually of suicide or workplace accidents such as falling while cleaning windows. Other reported forms of abuse include non-payment or irregular payment of salaries, psychological and physical violence (including sexual) and social isolation.

"Since migrant domestic workers’ legal status is tied to their employers, many employers keep their passports and other documents, and do not allow them to leave the house. Additionally, fear of arrest and deportation if they leave their employer means that migrant women often feel forced to stay despite in being an abusive situation," says Ms. Rouhana.

KAFA has built connections with migrant women workers from many different countries through meetings and other outreach activities, and distributes thousands of informative newsletters, currently published in five languages, to these communities.

Read KAFAs rapport

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