Saturday, February 27, 2010

Al-Hasna' magazine: Increase in cases of Suicide, Rape and Torture of Maids

Al-Hasna' magazine (issue 1809, February 2010) published a one page article in Arabic entitled: "The Situation of Maids in Lebanon in 2009: Increase in cases of Suicide, Rape and Torture".

The article reviews several suicide cases and interviews Nadim Houry (Human Rights Watch, Lebanon and Syria). Al-Hasna' also interviewed Dr. Ray Jureidini who gave the following figures, according to a study he did
  • 35% of maids work 15 hours per day
  • 42% of maids work 18 hours per day
  • 34% of maids do not have specified vacation/non-working days
  • 30% of maids included in the study were sexually harassed (which is an underestimate according to Dr. Jureidini)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mobilization to Close the General Security Detention Center this Sunday

The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH Centre Libanais des Droits de l'Homme) is calling to demonstrate this Sunday, at noon, in front of the the General Security Retention (or detention?) center located in Adlieh (under a traffic bridge), Beirut, to close it down.

The GS detention facilities are used to detain migrants and foreigners, including migrant domestic workers. According to a recent press release by a host of Lebanese, regional and International human rights organizations:
Under existing practice, when a foreign detainee finishes serving his or her sentence, the Internal Security Forces, which manage the prisons, do not release the person but rather refer the case to General Security, regardless of whether the court has ruled that the person should be deported after the sentence ends. Many of these foreign detainees are then kept for months before they are either released or deported.
There are more reasons to contest the existence of the GS detention Center, in addition to arbitrary detention of migrants.

Yesterday, prior to the call for mobilization, I was informed by humanitarian workers who had access to those detention facilities, of the case of one migrant domestic worker who accused the son in law of her employee of having raped her. After the humanitarian workers' intervention, the migrant worker was taken out of her employee's house and ended up in the general security prisons - instead of a Caritas safe house! For no explainable reason, the preliminary investigation did not include a medical examination of the victim that would bring evidence of the rape. In courts, the biased Lebanese investigators and the judge turned the case around and accused the woman of lying and falsely accusing a Lebanese man of rape. She was sentenced to 10 years prison - after the humanitarian workers paid her bail bond and succeeded in flying her out of Lebanon to her country.

The General Security detention centers contribute to the plight of migrant domestic workers, and hold migrants in inhumane conditions. They should be closed down. We cannot wait until the announced and long awaited reform of the GS detention facilities (which can be achieved between 2011 and 2050).

The following is the call for mobilization issued by the CLDH.

CALL FOR A GENERAL MOBILIZATION to Close Down the General Security Retention Center - SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 28 at 12PM

Under the Adlieh bridge, hundreds of persons are detained underground in inhumane conditions with no natural light or ventilation.

The General Security maintains these persons illegally, including refugees, migrant domestics and workers who have already served their sentence, for indeterminate periods of time without any external control.

This practice constitutes a flagrant violation of human rights and must end immediately!

The Lebanese Center for Human Rights calls on human rights defenders and all citizens to express their indignation this Sunday February 28 at 12PM in front of the General Security Retention Center at the Adlieh round-about to demand:
· The immediate release of all persons arbitrarily detained.
· The closing down of the retention center.
· The review of the General Security’s prerogatives

Break the silence on illegal practices of the General Security!

Facebook event:

CLDH Facebook Group:

End Arbitration Detention! Facebook Group:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

“The rights of 90% of maids are violated”, businessman who brings in maids to Lebanon (video)

عرض تلفزيون الـشبكة الوطنية للإرسال، ليل 22 شباط 2010، حلقة "الحياة أحلى" تخللها فقرة عن ظاهرة العنف ضد الخادمات الأجانب وحالات الانتحار تكلم خلالها د. أحمد عياش، رئيس مركز بلاد للدراسات النفسية والاجتماعية، و السيد جون قصابلي، صاحب مكتب استقدام خادمات أجانب.
في الدقيقة 19 من التسجيل الذي يلي والبالغة مدته 22 دقيقة، يعلن السيد جون قصابلي، صاحب مكتب استقدام خادمات أجانب، أن قسما كبيرا من الخادمات الأجانب الذين يموتون لا يعرف سبب موتهم الحقيقي، وهو ليس السقوط خلال تنظيف الزجاج، بل أن المخافر تشترك في إخفاء حقيقة ما يحصل وفي إخفاء دور الرجل في المنزل وما إذا دُفعت نحو الانتحار.

NBN TV aired a 22 minute interview, on the evening of Monday 22 February 2010, with Dr. Ahmad Ayash, head of a psycho-social studies center, and Mr. John Cassabli, owner of a business which bring maids to Lebanon.
The latter acknowledged the detrimental role of many businesses in the plight of migrant domestic workers. He gave the figure of 90% of migrant domestic workers whose rights are not respected – mistreatment or given one meal per day or etc. He also mentioned cases of rape or sexual enslavement.
He added (minute 19 of the recording) the following:
“We are dealing with these case as if a cat died, or a pullet (chicken less than 1 year old) fell of the balcony. Allow me to say: not all of them are dying because of falling while cleaning windows. I just came from a meeting with the consul of Madagascar. He told me that 4 migrant workers died in one week in domestic accidents as if the houses are situated in the middle of highways and as if they were crushed by cars. The consul added that men in houses where they died are involved. I have no confirmation for this, but things are being covered up in police stations under the title of ‘suicide’. No further investigations are done, especially whether or not she was pushed to commit suicide.”

Ethiopian suicides comments: Mr. Cassabli’s remarks and acknowledgments are shocking. How many deaths of migrant domestic workers go unreported because they were not spectacular enough (jumping from the balcony or drinking detergent)? How did Mr. Cassabli reach the figure of “90% of maids are mistreated”?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Zina: Lebanese Women, Diet, and housekeepers

The drawing is from Zina's Ups and Downs blog:'s comments:

I just find it funny how old Ashrafiyeh ladies ( or verdun ones ) have fancy brunches and insist on going on a diet.
All my respect to all housekeepers in Lebanon who cope with that.

*Canderel is a brand of sweetener ( typically used to replace sugar with something less fattening (e.g. 0 calories)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Falling" Ethiopian dies in Shoueifat

Al-Akhbar newspaper reported today the "fall" of Ethiopian national Ambet Spuka, born in 1987, from the 4th floor of her employer's house, Hanan S, in Shoueifat, South of Beirut. Ambet died before arriving to hospital.

In addition, we note that no follow up coverage whatsoever was done in Lebanese media on the case of the two Nepalese nationals who "fell" last month from the balcony of a migrant domestic workers employment agency!!

This is the text of Al-Akhbar:

«سقوط» عاملة إثيوبية في الشويفات

سقطت المواطنة الإثيوبية أمبت سبوكا (مواليد 1986) من الطبقة الرابعة في محلة الشويفات، وما لبثت أن فارقت الحياة قبل أن تنقل إلى المستشفى. وأوردت المعلومات أن السيدة الإثيوبية تعمل لدى المواطنة اللبنانية حنان ص.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"even dogs are not allowed to be treated this way.."

This an email that was forwarded to me
I live in [Ba..], Lebanon and I am writing for an advice.
On January 29th, at 5 am, my neighbour from the building facing mine was betting (punshing, clapping and kicking) her house maid till she was on the floor crying..
This same thing happened a day later and will sure happen tomorow and the days after tht.I tryed talking to her from my window but she refused to talk and was telling me she would l get killed if the owner saw her talking to me.
Now I need your advice on wht i can do to help her... This needs to stop because even dogs are not allowed to be treated this way..

[we emailed the sender for follow up - waiting for her response]

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Filipina domestic worker stabs employer's sister to death

Daily Star staff - Tuesday, February 09, 2010

BEIRUT: A Filipina domestic worker killed her employer’s sister and injured the woman’s seven-year-old daughter with a kitchen knife in the town of Ain Saadeh, the state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported on Monday. The Filipina housekeeper, who was not identified, stabbed to death Rose Saad, 48, and injured her niece Rosy Marie, who was hospitalized.

The maid stabbed Saad, while the latter was giving a bath to the employer’s daughter. Saad’s sister Matilda is the maid’s employer.

The NNA said security forces arrested the Filipina who claimed that she had received death threats before stabbing the woman and her niece.

المصدر: جريدة الأخبار (
روفينا متهمة بقتل شقيقة مخدومتها

محمد نزال
توفيت امرأة لبنانية ليل أول من أمس، وبيّنت تقارير الشرطة الأولية أنها قضت بعدما وجّهت إليها العاملة الفيليبينية، روفينا، عدة طعنات بسكين المطبخ. وقعت الحادثة في منزل مشغّلي روفينا في منطقة عين سعادة ـــــ برمانا. وقد نُقلت روز سعد إلى أحد مستشفيات المنطقة للمعالجة، إذ إنها أُصيبت بجروح في البطن والظهر، لكنها ما لبثت أن فارقت الحياة متأثرة بجروحها.سكين روفينا أصابت أيضاً، وفق ما جاء في التقارير، ماري ابنة شقيق روز. الطفلة البالغة من العمر 7 سنوات كانت في المنزل مع عمتها. علمت «الأخبار» أن المحامي جورج.ش أُصيب أيضاً بجرح في يده، إذ صودف وجوده في المكان، وجاء في تقارير الشرطة أنه حاول نزع السكين من يد روفينا. أما ماري فنُقلت إلى أحد المستشفيات، وما زالت تحت المراقبة الصحية المركّزة.
وصلت القوى الأمنية إلى المكان، أوقفت روفينا وباشرت التحقيق معها، كذلك ضُبطت السكين التي استُعملت «أداةً جرمية».هذه الحادثة تُعيد تسليط الضوء على موضوع العاملات الأجنبيات في لبنان، فقد برزت في الآونة الأخيرة حوادث «انتحار» عدد كبير منهن، إضافة إلى حوادث أخرى. ويرى ناشطون في مجال حقوق الإنسان أن العاملات الأجنبيات يلقَين معاملة سيئة و«غير إنسانية» من مخدوميهم، فضلاً عن المعاملة غير المنصفة تجاه بعضهن من الدولة. لكن الحادثة التي وقعت أول من أمس لا يمكن تصنيفها في هذا الإطار. فهذه المرة يُشتبه بأن العاملة الأجنبية قتلت شقيقة مخدومتها بطريقة قاسية. قال مسؤول أمني: «لعل روفينا (25 عاماً)، لم تحتمل تهديد شقيقة مخدومتها لها بالقتل، فبادرت العاملة (من التابعية الفيليبينية) إلى «قتل» روز سعد (48 عاماً) طعناً بالسكين»، وذلك وفق إفادة روفينا. وبالطبع لا يمكن إثبات هذا الكلام.
من جهة أخرى، تُسجّل في أحيان قليلة ادّعاءات لدى القوى الأمنية، إذ يتقدم مواطنون بشكوى على عاملات أجنبيات توارين عن الأنظار، بعد «سرقة» أموال أو جواهر من المنزل الذي يعملن فيه.

عدد الثلاثاء ٩ شباط ٢٠١٠
عنوان المصدر:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Daily Star: Minister of Labor to set up office to address migrant-worker complaints

Harb to set up office to address migrant-worker complaints
Minister says move spurred by criticism of ill-treatment

By Dalila Mahdawi - Daily Star staff - Friday, February 05, 2010

Original link:

BEIRUT: An office will be established in the coming months to handle complaints from or relating to migrant workers, Labor Minister Butros Harb said on Thursday. “I decided to create an office to receive complaints and coordinate with the embassies and consuls” after hearing criticism about the treatment of migrant domestic workers, Harb told The Daily Star.

There are around 200,000 migrant women working in Lebanon as live-in housekeepers, cooks and nannies. There are also an estimated 300,000 Syrians and an unknown number of Egyptians who work mostly as day laborers, doormen or gas-station attendants, with exact figures hard to come by. The majority of women migrant workers are from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and the Philippines. Despite forming a sizable presence in Lebanon, migrant workers are not protected under the country’s labor law.

While many women are treated respectfully by their employers, the lack of protection mechanisms mean that many others are subject to considerable rights abuses, including having their pay withheld, not being allowed out of the home or a weekly day off, and sexual, physical or psychological abuse. Some women have also reported having their passports taken from them and being deprived of food or water.

A study conducted by Human Rights Watch in 2008 found that more than one migrant domestic worker was dying in Lebanon each week – mostly from suspected suicide or by falling off a balcony while trying to escape abusive employers. Up to 30 women, including at least three in January, are thought to have died since October. Syrian and Egyptian men have also complained of discrimination, being robbed, beaten or even killed.

The complaints office will be tasked with “resolving” conflicts between migrant workers, their employers and recruitment agencies, Harb said. “It will help prevent mistreatment that workers are having in some cases and on the other side, [discourage] workers from leaving their employers. I hope that in creating this office we will be able to resolve these problems easily.”

The idea of creating a complaints office is not new, said Simel Esim, senior technical specialist in gender equality and women workers’ issues at the International Labor Organization’s regional office for Arab states. “There was previously a complaints desk in the ministry that was not very active and was put on hold for a while … it was not really a place where workers went with complaints.”

She said she welcomed the re-launch of the office, saying it was “in line with the vision for a Labor Ministry that is taking the lead in monitoring the conditions of work for migrant workers.” She nevertheless said that if the desk is to properly receive complaints from migrant domestic workers, then it would “need to have a hotline with trained personnel who know the laws and regulations and speak the languages of the workers.” According to Harb, the hotline will initially only be available in Arabic, French and English.

When asked if Lebanon might follow Jordan’s example and include migrant domestic workers in the labor law, Harb said the issue needed further study.

“They are already regulated by Lebanese law and international conventions, but if there are any other laws [needed], I will look into it,” he said.

Lebanon has signed the International Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, but not taken any steps towards signing the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, which would obligate it to take protection measures for the migrant community.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lebanese Ministry of Labor to create a complaints office for foreign workers

Al-Akhbar newspaper reported today the following.

Following meetings between Lebanese minister of Labor and ambassadors and consuls and chargés d'affaires of several countries, a committee will be formed to address the problems of foreign workers in Lebanon, and of migrant domestic workers. The ministry of Labor will create a complaints office for foreign workers, and will intervene and investigate these complaints. The minister said that the ministry will not accept that businesses bringing maids to Lebanon violate laws and impose unacceptable and illegal conditions.

Comment: I guess now we have one more organization to monitor (in addition to the businesses which bring the maids, the security forces, migrant workers communities, media, etc.)

Original Al-Akhbar text:

تأليف لجنة لمعالجة مشاكل اليد العاملة الأجنبية في لبنان

وهذه اللجنة هي حصيلة اجتماع عقده وزير العمل بطرس حرب (الصورة) مع عدد من السفراء والقائمين بالأعمال وقناصل الدول العربية والأجنبية، التي لها يد عاملة في لبنان. وخصّص الاجتماع لوضع الآليّات والصيغ التي تمنع الإساءة إلى العمال وعاملات المنازل، وبالتالي إلى ضبط أوضاعهم وقوننة العملية المرتبطة باستقدام العاملين والعاملات الأجانب إلى لبنان. ولفت حرب إلى أن الوزارة في صدد إنشاء مكتب لتلقّي شكاوى كل العاملين في لبنان من أجانب وغيرهم، لكي تتدخل وتجري تحقيقاً في أيّ شكوى ترد إليها، لافتاً إلى أن الوزارة لا تقبل أن يُقدِم أيّ مكتب استقدام عمال على مخالفة القانون بفرض شروط غير مقبولة، ومخالفة القانون، أو بإساءة التعامل مع الذين يستقدمهم إلى لبنان.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Feminist Collective's Domestic Migrant Workers Position Paper

The Feminist Collective is a Lebanon based group of young feminists who are working together to recreate a world free from sexism, and all other forms of exploitations and discrimination that collaborate with it: classism, heterosexism, racism, capitalism, etc.

They published a position paper on migrant domestic workers which can be found here.

Migrant women are stereotyped as submissive and stupid, as well as cunning. They are infantilized, addressed as “bint” (immature/ little girl). Often, they are looked at as private property, where “if she happens to have any health or other problem, she may be ‘returned’ to the employment agency, who will ensure that she is quickly ‘replaced.’” A Migrant worker is also seen as alien and inferior to “us”, so that her employers give themselves the right to “teach” (i.e. abuse) her. The lives of workers and their presence in our lives are also often erased from our literature, TV shows, and all other media.

While in his article in Arabic in Al-Akhbar newspaper "Victimhood and skin color: The Ethiopian [female workers] on the crashed plane", As'ad Abu Khalil asks "Can we imaging that the Future Movement and Hezbollah will issue one day a statement on the situation of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon?"

He adds, in Arabic:

لو أن أجسادهنّ يتولين الرواية ماذا كن قلن؟ قصص متكرّرة من الضرب ومن الجلد ومن القصاص. قصص من الاغتصاب والتحرّش الجنسي. قصص عن تجاهل رسمي لتكرار «حوادث» سقوط العاملات الإثيوبيّات والسريلانكيّات من الشرفات. تتعامل الشرطة اللبنانيّة مع تلك الحوادث كما تتعامل مع «حوادث» سقوط الثمار اليانعة عن الغصون. انتحارات بالجملة في وطن ثورة (حراس) الأرز. لا نسمع مرّة واحدة عن تحقيق رسمي. هل هناك من يسأل ومن يحقّق في انتحارات عاملات المنازل؟ هل سيق مخدوم واحد للتحقيق؟ هل خضعت أجساد المُنتحرات للفحص على يد الطبيب الشرعي للتحقق من خلوّهن من آثار ضرب أو اغتصاب أو الاثنين معاً؟ أليس هناك من يطالب بفتح تحقيق في ظروف وفاة العاملات الأجنبيّات في لبنان أو انتحارهن؟

AFP: Foreign domestic workers fight back at employers' abuse

(Same story about "Nanda", publisher previously in French and Arabic)

BEIRUT: Abused, humiliated and deprived of the most basic rights, foreign maids in Lebanon are starting to fight back against their employers in court and, in rare cases, they are winning. Nanda, from Sri Lanka is one of the few to break the silence. The 22-year-old arrived in Beirut in 2009 to work as a housekeeper, hoping to help support her 8-year-old daughter and soldier husband back home with her meager monthly salary of $180.

Instead she found herself trapped in an abusive household with no way out.

Nanda’s employer confiscated her passport and forced her to work seven days a week, although her contract stipulated eight-hour workdays and a recent decree adopted by the Lebanese government that calls for domestic workers to be given one day off a week.

“I worked from 5:30 in the morning until midnight, non-stop and without pay,” she said. “And what’s worse is I was never allowed to call my family.”

Nanda was particularly shocked when her employer’s 6- and 12-year-old children took to beating her when she did not cater to their whims.

“I did not understand Arabic and now I know I was often being treated as a ‘sharmouta,’” the Arabic word for whore, Nanda said, fighting back tears.

“For my first two months in Lebanon, my boss gave me one slice of bread a day to eat because she said I was too fat, and sometimes leftovers. I was always hungry,” she told AFP, sitting in a shelter at Caritas Lebanon, a charity group that offers refuge to victims of domestic abuse.

But today, Nanda has joined a growing number of foreign workers who are filing lawsuits against their employers in a bid to improve their lot.

“We hope that justice will find her,” said Dima Haddad, a social worker at Caritas which is giving Nanda legal assistance.

Haddad said she especially hopes Nanda will repeat the success of 29-year-old Filipina Jonaline Malibagu, whose employer was sentenced in December to 15 days in prison by a Lebanese court for abuse and ordered to pay $7,200 in damages.

“Another worker who had not received her salary for years also managed to win compensation in court in 2009,” she said.

Many of the estimated 200,000 foreign domestic workers currently in Lebanon hail from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia.

The Philippines, Ethiopia and Madagascar now ban their citizens from travelling to Lebanon due to the tiny Mediterranean country’s poor labor rights record.

Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday Middle Eastern governments were failing to improve their rights records, including for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

The international rights group’s World Report 2010 highlighted the poor treatment of workers in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan, where they face “exploitation and abuse by employers, including excessive work hours, non-payment of wages and restrictions on their liberty.”

But there are signs, albeit small, that the Lebanese state and society are waking up to the problem.

In January 2005, Lebanon’s immigration authorities agreed to grant Caritas the right to house abused workers and provide them with medical and legal counsel.

And last year the government issued a decree that requires employers to abide by a set of rules including paying workers their salary in full at the end of each month and giving them one day off a week.

However, advocacy groups say that few employers respect these conditions.

“These rules stipulate one day off a week, but many employers still refuse to allow their housekeepers to leave the house,” Haddad said.

“The issue is definitely becoming more visible,” said Nadim Houry, a senior researcher in Beirut for Human Rights Watch. “But many workers still do not dare complain because of fear, or because they have no papers.”

Houry added that widespread abuse, and sometimes rape, has caused an alarming number of suicides.

Human Rights Watch estimates that one domestic worker commits suicide in Lebanon every week on average.

“When you’re cornered, suicide becomes a real option,” said Nanda.