Thursday, April 29, 2010
Human Rights Watch issues report on the Protection of Migrant Domestic Workers in Asia and the Middle East
In the report, “Slow Reform: Protection of Migrant Domestic Workers in Asia and the Middle East,” released on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged governments to do away with restrictive sponsorship policies and to take increased measures against abusive employers.
The 25-page report looks at recent reforms and shortcomings in Lebanon, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Malaysia. It said that although all the countries had taken some steps towards protecting migrants, tangible progress was sluggish.
“Several governments have made concrete improvements for migrant domestic workers in the past five years, but in general, reforms have been slow, incremental, and hard-fought,” said Nisha Varia, women’s rights researcher at HRW and chief author of the report. “Millions of Asian and African women workers remain at high risk of exploitation and violence, with little hope of redress,” the report added.
Download full report
Read the HRW press release
Webpage of the report
Arabic coverage of the report
أعلنت منظمة «هيومن رايتس ووتش»، في تقرير أصدرته أمس لمناسبة عيد العمال، أن الإصلاحات التي أجرتها حكومات الشرق الأوسط وآسيا لصالح عاملات المنازل المهاجرات، لا توفر الحد الأدنى من تدابير الحماية اللازمة، للتصدي للإساءات المرتكبة بحقهن. وقالت إنه بالرغم من التحسن في الأوضاع مؤخراً، فإن الملايين من النساء الآسيويات والأفريقيات ما زلن عرضة لخطر الاستغلال والعنف، في ظل أمل ضعيف في الإنصاف أو التعويض.
وتضمن التقرير الذي تألف من 26 صفحة، مراجعة أوضاع ثماني دول فيها أعداد كبيرة من عاملات المنازل المهاجرات، هي: لبنان والأردن والسعودية والكويت والإمارات والبحرين وسنغافورة وماليزيا.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
24/7: «حضـارة المـذاق».. لتغييـر الصـورة النمطيـة عـن العامـلات الأجنبيـات
ناي الراعي 28/04/2010
تدرك نسرين كاج (28 عاماً) تماماً معنى أن تكون امرأة ذات بشرة سمراء في لبنان. قصتها بدأت منذ حوالى تسعة أعوام، يوم قررت هي، اللبنانية - النيجيرية أن تأتي إلى بلد والدها، لتتعلم اللغة والثقافة، وتكمل دراستها فيه، بعد أن أمضت عشرين عاماً في موطن والدتها نيجيريا.
«أتيت إلى هنا لأتعلم اللغة وأتواصل مع الشق الثاني من هويتي»، تقول. إلا أن التجربة لم تكن «لطيفة»: «اختبرت صدمة حضارية. كنت حين امشي في الجامعة، يناديني أحد الشبّان «بسسست»، وأنا لسذاجتي حينها، كنت أردّ معتقدة بأنه يريد أن يسألني عن الوقت مثلاً.. فأصعق بسؤاله: بقديش انتي».
Monday, April 26, 2010
The numbers of the Caritas hotline for Migrant Workers are 03 092 538.
Caritas safe house fights for rights of migrant workers
By Evita Mouawad, Special to The Daily Star, Monday, April 26, 2010
BEIRUT: In December, a landmark for migrant workers’ rights in Lebanon was achieved when Filipino worker Jonalin Malibago won her case against her employer, who physically abused her for years, and who was later sentenced to two weeks of prison. Malibago was assisted by the Caritas Migrant Center and despite the leniency of the abuser’s sentence, the outcome of the case gave hope to all migrant workers who have been or are still subject to abuse.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Upcoming: ILO Action Programme for Protecting the Rights of Women Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon
The International Labor Organization (Regional Office Beirut) will soon be launching a three year Action Programme in order to contribute to improving the conditions of work for women migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. Over the course of the programme, the capacities of Ministry of Labour (MoL) and other key players will be enhanced to manage the monitoring and regulating WMDWs. A series of activities will be undertaken for enhancing the understanding of workers’ rights among the domestic workers, their employers, employment agencies, teachers and social partners under the action programme. As a key partner, the MoL is already actively engaged with the ILO RO-Beirut to disseminate an information guide on domestic migrant workers’ rights. MoL is also working toward establishing a hotline service for migrant workers.
‘24/7 Campaign’ to counter stereotypes surrounding migrant employees
By Dalila Mahdawi, Daily Star staff, Thursday, April 22, 2010
BEIRUT: They can be seen throughout Lebanon carrying heavy shopping bags, running errands for their employers and walking the dog. But just as frequently, migrant domestic workers aren’t seen by the public at all.
An estimated 200,000 women migrant domestic workers, mostly coming from countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ethiopia or the Philippines, work in Lebanon as live-in or freelance housekeepers, nurses and nannies. While many are treated with respect, others find themselves trapped in abusive circumstances. Many complain of having their passports confiscated, salaries withheld, or of psychological, sexual or verbal abuse. One basic right often flouted by employers is that of having a weekly day off outside the home.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
BUT, the Indonesian government declared that it will not allow for its citizens to work in Lebanon because it deems the security situation, namely in South Lebanon, unfavorable.
Below is Al-Akhbar's short article, and the original full length Antara (Indonesian News Agency) article.
إندونيسيا لا ترسل عمالاً إلى لبنان... الأسباب أمنية
أعلنت الحكومة الإندونيسية أمس أنها لم تتخذ بعد قراراً بإرسال خدم إلى لبنان «لأن الوضع الأمني في ذاك البلد ليس ملائماً حتى الساعة»، وفق ما جاء في خبر نشرته وكالة «يو بي آي».
نقلت وكالة الأنباء الإندونيسية «أنتارا» عن مديرة قسم العمال الإندونيسيين المهاجرين في وزارة العمل والهجرة روستيا واتي قولها «رغم أن لبنان آمن للعمال الإندونيسيين المهاجرين، فإن النزاعات ما زالت تستعر في الأجزاء الجنوبية من البلد».
وكانت الحكومتان اللبنانية والإندونيسية قد وقعتا في 7 نيسان الجاري مذكرة تفاهم لتبادل العمال.
عدد الخميس ١٥ نيسان ٢٠١٠
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - April 14 2010 - The Indonesian government will not yet send its domestic helpers to Lebanon as the security situation in that country is not yet favorable.
"We have not yet opened opportunities to send our housemaids to Lebanon. While Lebanon is already safe for the placement of Indonesian migrant workers, the conflicts were still raging in the southern parts of that country, so that for their own safety, we have not decided to send our domestic helpers to that country," Director of Overseas Placement of Indonesian Migrant Workers of the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, Roostiawati said in Jakarta Tuesday.
Roostiawati said the MoU between Indonesia and Lebanon merely dealt with Indonesian migrant workers employed in the formal sector.
Earlier, the Indonesian and Lebanese governments signed an MoU on the exchange of workers.
The MoU was signed by Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Muhaimin Iskandar and his Lebanese counterpart Boutros Harab in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday (April 7).
According to Minister Muhaimin Iskandar in a press statement Friday, the MoU was a step forward since Indonesia did not declare Lebanon as a country for the placement of Indonesian migrant workers.
"With the MoU, Lebanon has become one of the countries in the Middle East for the placement of Indonesian migrant workers," he said.
Besides the placement of Indonesian migrant workers, the minister said the protection
of the migrant workers also received special attention.
"Indonesia is committed to send its workers to Lebanon. The Lebanese government, in this case its labour ministry, is therefore expected provide Indonesian with information on the employment opportunities in the formal sector," he said.
Lebanon has a big market potential for Indonesian skilled migrant workers.Lebanon, where the tourism industry is a priority sector, was in need of at least 40 thousand workers each year.
More high-rise office buildings, hotels and residential complexes are being built by the government and businesspeople in Lebanon, so that the country needs thousands of workers. The country also needed nurses and paramedics as well as workers for the oil and gas industry.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Lebanon and Saudi Arabia have agreed to improve protection of Indonesian migrant workers employed in the Middle East countries.
Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar had visited the four countries and discussed efforts to protect Indonesia’s migrant workers, Secretary of the Directorate General for Workers' Training and Placement, Abdul Malik Harahap, said Tuesday.
Qatar, UAE and Lebanon have signed a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) covering health services and working hours. Saudi Arabia has yet to sign pending its drafting of new legislation on migrant workers, especially those working as domestic helpers.
“A total of nine countries have already signed the MoU,” the Director of Migrant Worker Placement, Rostiawati, told The Jakarta Post, citing Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar and UAE.
Indonesia hopes to improve its migrant workers’ situation by guaranteeing their basic rights and improving their placement.
“There are still some of our workers in shelters in Qatar; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and in Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, waiting to be sent home,” Rostiawati added.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
أمن - توقيف بنغالية في المطار ضبطت معها مسروقات
وطنية - 13/4/2010 - ذكر المندوب الامني ل"الوكالة الوطنية للاعلام" الياس شاهين أن فصيلة التفتيشات في مطار بيروت الدولي أوقفت ليل أمس الخادمة البنغالية (راجيا بيغوم رفيق الاسلام من مواليد 1982) بعد تفتيش حقائب سفرها حيث ضبط بداخلها كمية من الذهب والمصاغ من انواع مختلفة إضافة إلى أحجار كريمة كانت موضبة في قعر مزدوج فضلا عن مبلغ نقدي من الاموال.
وبعد التحقيق معها تبين أنها هربت من منزل مخدومتها غادي فندي الشعار في محلة دوحة عرمون التي حضرت وتعرفت على مصاغها وابرزت اوراقا تثبت ملكيتها لها . وقد سلمت كامل المسروقات وأوقفت راجيا بناء لاشارة القضاء المختص.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
For more information of the UPR process, click here. The report will be available publicly on the OHCHR website soon.
Ethiopian Suicides contributed to writing the following two paragraphs of the report on the rights of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon.
Paragraph 34 of the report: The number of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon is estimated to be between 130,000 and 200,000 in a population of 4 million . Lebanese legislation does not provide sufficient protection for migrant domestic workers. The system of sponsorship ‘kafala’ creates total dependence of the migrant worker on the employer, and de facto denies them the right to take their employer to court. Furthermore, there are no governmental mechanisms for monitoring the employment process, the employment agencies and employers’ abuse. This has lead to slavery like conditions, labor exploitation, restriction of movement, physical and sexual abuses, and an alarming rate of suicide and deaths.
The coalition calls on the Working Group and the Council to urge the Government of Lebanon to:
Paragraph 40 of the report: With regards to migrant domestic workers, amend the labor law to (a) abolish the sponsorship ‘kafala’ system and replace it with a contractual system (b) operationalize supervision of the Ministry of Labour on domestic workers’ employment processes and working conditions, as well as practice of the employment agencies and (c) investigate cases of abuse and provide legal protection for domestic workers.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
ادّعت سهى ح. وهي من سكان القنطاري في بيروت، أن سيارة من نوع جيب توقفت أمام بنايتها، وكان في داخلها خمسة أشخاص، بينهم امرأتان وآخرون بلباس الدفاع المدني، وسألوا ناطور البناية عن عنوان منزلها في غيابها، وخطفوا العاملة البنغالية التي تعمل لديها عنوة.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
The death was presumed to be a suicide according to the National News Agency, from which the newspapers picked up the news.
On Saturday 20th, Ethiopian Suicides and Nasawiya attempted to shed more light on this case by going to the scene of the fall and ask a few questions. To our great surprise, just like in the previous cases, the neighboring shops did not know anything. It turned out that, first new piece of information, the fall happened at night, and that the ambulance and the police came early in the morning.
When we tried to ask questions to the owner of the employment office, Al Rabih, he and the Sri Lankan man who was in the office felt seriously uncomfortable and refused to comment.
We later paid a visit to the Antelias police station where we couldn’t get much info either.
Finally, our calls to the Sri Lankan embassy were answered by a Lebanese woman who went on the defensive to reassure us that the embassy is trying to do everything it can on this issue – BEFORE we asked her about anything. The minute we asked about the Sri Lankan woman who died last week she automatically said and reiterated that it was a suicide. “We are sure it was a suicide” she said. She took our number and told us that the consul will call back in two minutes. No one called us till date.
The main question we did not find an answer to, for the past few weeks of “attempting”: Was she alone when she ‘fell’ or ‘decided to jump’ from the balcony? We doubt that.
Below are some photos of the location, including the corridor leading to the room where she presumably jumped.
BEIRUT: In Sri Lanka, it is customary for women to purchase a house and furniture for their husband before marriage, as it is their duty to provide food for the household once the children are born.
This tradition has led many Sri Lankan women to seek work abroad especially in the Middle East where most families employ migrant workers as housekeepers or babysitters and where the pay is very reasonable compared to what one might earn back home.
Lebanon is one of the countries that receives the most migrant workers in the Middle East, most of them coming from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia or the Philippines and throughout the years, cases of exploitation, abuse and even suicide have been surfacing and attracting more attention among the public.
The painful truth is that this has been happening for more than 30 years as Lebanon started welcoming migrant workers back in 1973.
In 1994, Caritas established its Migrant Center with aims of strengthening and supporting the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Lebanon regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or political beliefs.
A documentary entitled “Maid in Lebanon” was presented Tuesday at the American University of Beirut, portraying the hardship that female migrant workers are subject to in Lebanon. The film was directed by Carol Mansour and sponsored by Caritas and other NGOs.
“Maid in Lebanon” does not only give insight on the lives of these workers in Lebanon but also on the process they go through in Sri Lanka before leaving for the Middle East. In Sri Lanka, Lebanon is perceived as a country of opportunity.
Among the 200,000 migrant workers that are employed in Lebanon, 80,000 are Sri Lankan making them the majority among the others.
The journey is not always fruitful for all, as many of the workers become prisoners on house-arrest. And contrary to what many Lebanese believe or do, it is illegal for a migrant worker’s sponsor or agency to confiscate the worker’s passport.
“When employers confiscate these workers’ passports it is as if they strip them from their identity and it ultimately means that the worker has become a prisoner in the home,” said Noha Roukoss who is responsible of the Awareness Sessions of Caritas.
She also noted that employers tend to confiscate the passports, believing that it will keep the worker from running away, but according to Roukoss this is not true. “According to the many cases we have seen, when workers are mistreated and run away from the household they leave everything behind, all they care about is their freedom. And once free they will do whatever it takes to get back home even if it means trafficking themselves back to Sri Lanka,” she said.
After a worrying number of migrant workers’ suicides surfaced in the press last year, the Labor Ministry approved in January the “Unified Contract” for all migrant workers in Lebanon that was drafted by Caritas and other NGOs.
Nonetheless the fact that the contract is only available in Arabic has caused problems, making it more difficult for the workers to be aware of all their rights. Caritas is working on getting it translated to as many languages as possible.
Harsh stories of sexual harassment and rape are also portrayed in the documentary as domestic workers reveal being repeatedly violated in the households. And what is more shocking is that in many cases the assaults are not led by the fathers or husbands but by the teenage boys of the household aging 16 to 18.
In 2002 the Caritas Migrant Center built a Safe House for migrant workers who have been victims of abuse where social workers, lawyers and doctors advise and look after them as they await for trial or for a flight back home.
Caritas has also installed a hotline that anyone can call 24 hours a day to report abuse of a domestic worker. The numbers are 03 092 538 or 03 290 066
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
توقيفات في المطارأوقفت العاملة الأجنبية زوريا ع. في مطار بيروت أمس وفي حوزتها 202 ليرة ذهبية و9 إيصالات بتحويل أموال إلى بلدها. وبالاستماع إلى إفادتها اعترفت زوريا بأنها أقدمت على سرقة المجوهرات من منزل مشغّليها في فردان.
Monday, April 5, 2010
In April 2008, Human Rights Watch launched a campaign in support of the rights of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. You can find info in Arabic here and also the fliers.
The campaign clearly did not succeed at putting an end to the plight of migrant domestic workers. So much more is needed to make a change.
Friday, April 2, 2010
“Fair and Lovely” is a brand of skin-whitening cream used by Asian and African women. It’s also the poignant title of Tagreed Darghouth’s latest exhibition, currently on show at the Agial Art Gallery.
The show’s series of oil portraits is dedicated to the plight of the foreign domestic workers, who have become a pervasive and disconcerting social phenomenon in Lebanon and across the wider Middle East.
The highlight of the exhibition is an array of mugshots taken from newspapers, publicizing runaways who have fled the control of their employers. Ironically, the distressed women look content in their photos – taken by their employment agency before they entered domestic servitude – and subsequently used as an ad to attract families in need of domestic labor.
Full Daily Star article here (2 April 2010).
“Fair and Lovely” is up at the Agial Art Gallery until April 17. For more information contact the gallery at http://www.agialart.com or +961 1 345 213.
In that episode (published below), International Labor Organization (ILO) senior technical specialist, Ms. Simel Esim called for the end of the exclusion of domestic workers (not just migrants) from the application of labor laws. Lawyer Rolan Taok who is active on this issue called for a special tribunal for solving cases of migrant domestic workers with the purpose of speeding up the cases, as well as an overhaul of the system of employing migrants and abolishing the sponsorship 'kafala' system.
Ms. Simel added "with the kafala system, you are creating a total dependency of the worker on the employer for her food, sleeping, health, everything... Total dependency creates total vulnerability and opens the door wide to exploitation (...) We always say why are they coming? There are push factors: poverty, unemployment (in their home country)".
To get the footage, I contacted Ms. Simel at the ILO offices, and we had a good chat over the phone about the latest developments on migrant domestic workers rights. She told me that the ministry of labor is attempting to make functional the office and procedure for receiving complaints related to migrant domestic workers (office supposedly set up last February). Last week, when I tried to get the number of that mysterious "office" on 1515 (Phone company information line), I was given the Ministry of Labor's phone number. That's the only number they have.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
This is Nadine's post (and don't forget to follow @mdwsuicides on twitter!)
Twog for Migrant Rights this Labor Day
I thought “Tweet and Blog” was too long, so I made it Twog Ok, so Simba Russeau and her fellow activists on migrant rights are organizing some events in Lebanon to raise awareness in the lead up to Labor Day. Migrants from South Asia, South-East Asia, and Africa come to Lebanon to work and often find themselves toiling under inhuman conditions without the possibility of an exit. It is, without a doubt, modern day slavery. And although there is more and more talk around it in the region, we have done little on the ground to fight the oppressive system.
And so, this Labor Day 2010, as we celebrate our right to a day off from being such hard workers, let us work to raise awareness about migrant rights in our Arab countries by blogging and tweeting. Here’s what you can do:
- Tweet thoughts, ideas, links to articles, and information about migrant rights intensively the week of April 24 – May 1st. Use the #migrantrights hashtag. We are not trying to trend, but we are trying to raise lots of awareness and get conversations going.
- Write up a blog post during the week and publicize the link on your Facebook and social networks. Send a link to email@example.com who will be aggregating all blogs for the week.
- Recruit your friends to do the same.
- Think of more creative ideas like a Facebook action, shared profile pic, twibbon, etc.. and post them here in the comments or send to Simba directly.
- Anyone who’d like to design a badge for this campaign is very welcome.
Also, here are some ideas I had for blog posts, so that we make sure that they are not all the same:
- Interview a migrant worker. Ask him/her about their journey here and their work here.
- Interview a migrant worker on camera. Post his/her interview on YouTube.
- Analyze the problem with migrant labor from a political or social perspective. Focus on either the gender aspect, the class struggle, or our inherent racism, to cite a few examples.
- Talk about the situation in your country in particular.. what is it like for Sudanese workers in Egypt? Egyptian workers in Lebanon? Sri Lankan women in Dubai? Nepalese women in Jordan?
- Propose solutions. Write up brainstorming posts where you think of campaigns, projects, events, programs, organizations that can work on ending the injustice.
- Elaborate on the feminist analysis of migrant worker rights: household work as unpaid work, gender dynamics in the household, violence from women against other women, domestic violence & violence against domestic workers, sexual assault on migrant women, trafficking of migrant women, violence against women within the migrant communities, and other examples.
- Celebrate the culture of a non-Arab country from which many migrate to Arab states. I can think of Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and the Philippines (but that might be just from a Lebanese experience). Post a tribute by raising your friends and followers’ awareness about the richness of these cultures, histories, languages, and music.
If you’re interested in helping to organize, get in touch and I will add you to a google ground we’ve just created for Twog organizers.
"The family pushes you like they own you," she recalls. "I suffered abuse from the father, his son and his friends. But I was lucky because they never hit me."
Abebe now lives in a legal limbo unable to return to Ethiopia, caught in a debt-bondage between her former host-family, who filed a counter report of theft when she went to the police, and General Security for overstaying her visa. But she has no work permit and cannot get legal representation. She was unable to continue the conversation.
Full Africa Review article here, published March 11, 2010.