Stop the Abuse of Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon
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The Ethiopian woman who was seen been beaten and dragged by men in Lebanon outside the Ethiopian consulate committed suicide on Wednesday 14th of March 2012 as confirmed by The Daily Star.
The abuse which was caught on film shows Alem Dechasa, the 33-year-old victim shouting ‘No No No’ and struggling to resist a man dragging her and forcing her into a car as many stood by watching. The man was later identified as Ali Mahfouz. According to Asaminew Bonssa, the Ethiopian Consul General in Lebanon the incident took place two weeks before it became widely publicised.
Alem was married and mother of two children from Burayu a town not far from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia and she has only been in Lebanon for two months. She was on suicide watch in the Hospital she was in when she hanged herself. According to the Ethiopian Consul, Alem has arrived in Lebanon illegally, as Ethiopia banned domestic workers from travelling to Lebanon about three years ago.
Human Rights Watch report in 2008 revealed that, in just a year, at least 95 migrant domestic workers have died in Lebanon. Of these 95 deaths, 40 are classified by the embassies of the migrants as suicide, while 24 others were caused by workers falling from high buildings, often while trying to escape their employers. By contrast, only 14 domestic workers died because of diseases or health issues.
There are more than 200,000 migrant domestic workers in Lebanon mostly women in their 20’s and 30’s who come from the Ethiopia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal and Madagascar, to earn money to support families back home.
A survey conducted by Caritas last year found that 70 percent of employers limit the freedom of movement of the migrant workers they employ. Nearly 98 percent of employers retained possession of their employees’ passports.
In October 2011 Gulnara Shahinian, United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, highlighted that the lack of legal protection in Lebanon leaves domestic workers vulnerable to domestic servitude at the hands of recruitment and placement agencies and ultimately at the hands of their employers.
The Special Rapporteur urged the Lebanese authorities to ensure that domestic workers obtain legal protection and have prompt and immediate access to remedies and justice, and that employers are aware of their obligations when recruiting domestic workers.
She said: “I met with women who had been forced to work long hours without any remuneration or valid contract; physically and sexually abused; and morally harassed by constantly being insulted, humiliated and belittled.
“Currently, the visa regime is such that if a domestic worker leaves an employer, she immediately breaks the law. In the case of a domestic worker held in domestic servitude, she is, as a result, treated as a criminal instead of a victim of human rights violations.”
We the undersigned call upon:
· The Lebanese Government to investigate the abuse on Alem Dechasa and bring those responsible for her horrendous treatment and subsequent death to justice.
· The Lebanese Government to stop turning a blind eye to the systemic exploitation and continued abuse of migrant domestic workers in the country and properly investigate and punish the culprits.
· The Lebanese Government to abandon the sponsorship system that ties a migrant domestic worker’s residence and work permit to one specific employer. This system denies workers their basic rights, such as freedom of movement and makes them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
· Gulnara Shahinian, United Nations Special Rapporteur , to keep on the pressure on the Lebanese Government to recognise and rectify the appalling and racist treatment of migrant domestic workers in the Lebanon.
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