Migrant domestic workers beaten and abused by Lebanese Muslim employers

Several countries have banned their citizens from working in Lebanon because so many of them are turned into virtual slaves there. Lebanese labor laws offer no protection for migrant workers.

“An estimated 200,000 domestic workers in Lebanon, the majority women, are living in servitude and are subject to abuse and exploitation, according to a human rights expert.”At least one migrant worker a week commits suicide in Lebanon because of the brutal conditions.

LA TIMES  On Oct. 21, 26-year-old Zeditu Kebede Matente of Ethiopia was found dead, hanging from an olive tree in the southern Lebanese town of Haris. Just two days later, her compatriot, 30-year-old Saneet Mariam, died after falling from the balcony of her employer’s house in Mastita, just north of Beirut.

It’s been a deadly month for women working as domestic laborers in Lebanon. At least six have died under mysterious circumstances, constituting a “clear pattern that cannot be ignored,” Human Rights Watch researcher Nadim Houry told the Daily Star recently.

Most of the women died after falling from high windows or balconies, except for Matente, who died by hanging, and a 24-year-old Nepalese woman who died of a heart attack. Most of these women are thought to have been driven to suicide by employer abuse or else fell while trying to escape, although homicide cannot be ruled out.

Washington Times  Upon her arrival in Lebanon, Sina quickly discovered that her work situation was quite different from what she had imagined. After confiscating Sina’s passport and identification, the employers wanted her to work fourteen hours a day, seven days a week.  They gave Sina only bread and tea to eat each day. For months, the employers also demanded that she work at their relatives’ houses.

Lebanese authorities have turned a blind eye to the problem of abused foreign housemaids for far too long. Under Lebanese laws, a foreign housemaid faces challenges when attempting to change her workplace, regardless of abuse by employers. A regulation called “Tenazul” forbids a foreign housemaid from working for another employer without the consent and release from her former employer. It also requires the former employer or sponsor to pass legal responsibilities to the second employer.

Under this legislation, someone like Sina becomes an illegal migrant the minute she decides to either escape from her abusive employer or choose to work for another employer without her current employer’s consent. Also, many employers often use a threat of deportation in order to control their foreign housemaids because of Tenazul.