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Campaign Tackles Migrant Worker Exploitation in Lebanon

Seven NGOs in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs have recently launched the “Fi Chi Ghalat” (Something is Wrong) campaign, denouncing Lebanon's controversial Kafala (sponsorship) System.

The way the system works is quite simple. All ‘unskilled laborers’ (domestic workers) must have an in-country sponsor responsible for both her or his visa and legal status. That sponsor is usually their employer as well. The system which, according to International Labor Organization senior Ms. Simel Esim, “creates total vulnerability and opens the door wide to exploitation” due to its dimension of complete dependency has created a large number of victims over the years.

Indeed, Nadim Houry, Senior Researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Lebanon, was quoted as saying:

The two leading causes of death for migrants is suicide [and] dying while trying to escape from employers.

The situation remains grim in Lebanon. According to statistics compiled by AltCity and Migrant Workers Task Force, 99 per cent of migrant workers are denied freedom of movement; 65% work more than 11 hours per day; 52% are called derogatory terms such as Hmara (donkey); 34% are not given time off; 31% are not allowed to leave the house; 14% are physically abused; and 7% are sexually abused.

This campaign comes in addition to KAFA’s [Enough Violence and Exploitation] 24/7 helpline for all migrant workers who are victims of physical and sexual abuse (76090910), the Anti-Racism Movement’s campaign against racism in Lebanese beaches and the ‘Ethiopian Suicides‘ blog’s constant reporting of cases of abuse.

So what are they asking for? Migrant-Rights.org has the answer:

These organizations call for the replacement of the sponsorship system with a framework that guarantees:

the right to be paid on time
the right to quit job
the right to keep her passport and belongings
the right to a system that protects her well-being, humanity and labor right
the right to a set hours of rest, including a day off outside the house

The campaign is aimed at both the population and authorities [ar]:

لازم يتغير القانون وعقلية العالم وهيدا ببلش من الشخص وبعدين الحكومة. لازم نغير نظام الكفالة!

The law and the mentality have to change and that starts with the individual and then the government, we must change the Kafala System!

And as we were reminded on the campaign's Facebook page by a Nepali migrant worker, things have to change.

I did not even get enough food. sometimes I only had bread and tea. I worked all day, with only bread and tea. One day, I asked for my full salary and told madam not to send me to wok at the houses of her friends and relatives, and I said that, ” if you don't give me my salary I will not work at all”. After saying this, I was beaten right away. She even used shoes to beat me. My right hand was broken and there were bruises all over my body. I was only taken to hospital 10 days later. But Madam told me that if I was asked by a doctor or anyone else about what happened to me, I should not tell them that I was beaten. She told me to say that, “It happened because I fell down while I was working”

Amrita from Nepal

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