My recent blog post on modern-day slavery and human trafficking brushed upon the subject of the abuse of migrant workers in the region. However, this topic alone is worthy of a blog post.
On March 14 2012, Dechasa Desisa a young Ethiopian woman committed suicide after being publically abused and humiliated by her employer. News about her unfortunate death filled international and local media outlets, as human rights organisation rushed to condemn the Lebanese government and call for reform of national laws. However, this young woman is one of many migrant workers who are physically and verbally exploited in Lebanon, and this has been going on for too long. There are almost 200,000 migrant workers –from mainly Asian and African countries -and they are not subject to Lebanese labour laws but instead to special immigration laws. Modern day slavery has taken a new and different form and so there should be legislation in order to stop it!
The Lebanese government should strive to protect domestic workers and criminalise the abusers by:
• Abolishing the sponsorship law or the KAFALA system
• Conforming Lebanese labour law to internationally recognised labour law
• Ratifying the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention No. 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers
• Amending current Lebanese law -which only penalises the abuser with 1 month of imprisonment
• Launching a series of mandatory awareness campaigns in schools in all regions explaining forms of abuse and means to stop or prevent them in their own homes
• Informing domestic workers upon arrival in Lebanon of their rights
• Penalising the “recruitment” companies -which often act as the middle-man between the domestic worker and their employer- when they do not report abuse or carry it out themselves, deny the workers their pay and confiscate personal belongings
• Educate all official personnel who have to direct contact with abused workers in order to handle the cases properly
On Sunday 29th April a parade will take place in Beirut celebrating workers day and calling for the abolishment of the sponsorship law in the hope that the government will listen.