Ethiopian domestic workers stranded in crisis-hit Lebanon
By HASSAN AMMAR Associated Press
About 180,000 domestic workers in Lebanon, most of them women from Ethiopia, are growing more desperate as a crippling economic and financial crisis sets in, coupled with coronavirus restrictions.
The Labor Ministry organized buses late Wednesday that transported about 35 women left stranded outside the consulate to a hotel in Beirut after they spent the day on the street with their belongings, some of them crying. Scenes on local television prompted the ministry to take action, offering the women shelter until they could be flown out of the country. Lebanon’s airport has been shuttered since mid-March as part of measures to help step the spread of the new coronavirus.
On Thursday, there were new arrivals.
“They are dumping us like trash,” said one worker who had been in Lebanon for seven years and was now looking to go back home after her employers drove her to the consulate.
“We are human, would they accept for their children to be treated this way?” said the woman, Aster, who gave only her first name for fear of reprisal for speaking to the media.
Labor Minister Lamia Douaihy vowed on Twitter to take necessary measures against employers who commit “humanitarian violations.”
Lebanon has been hit by an unprecedented economic and financial crisis made worse by the lockdown related to the virus. The foreign currency crisis has led to many migrants not being paid for months or the value of their salaries declining by more than half. Others have lost their jobs after employers dumped them on the streets or outside their embassies.
Many are unable to go home, because they cannot afford the price of a repatriation flight or because global air travel is severely restricted.
Some among Thursday’s crowd came to inquire about flights back home.
“I came here because I want to travel home. … I have a daughter and I have no work (here), I have no house, I have nothing. Where shall I stay?” said worker Birke Angello.
(dailymail)—Lebanon has provided temporary shelter for 35 homeless Ethiopian domestic workers who had camped outside their consulate after being abandoned by employers hit by the country’s worsening economic crisis, the labour ministry said Thursday.
“We provided this shelter to get them off the street and we are now in touch with international agencies and the Ethiopian consulate to look for a long-term solution,” ministry spokesman Hussein Zalghout told AFP.
Lebanon is in the midst of its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, compounded by a lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Some Lebanese families have started paying their home help in depreciating local currency, while others have stopped paying at all, with increasing reports of domestic workers being thrown onto the street.
In recent weeks, dozens of Ethiopian women have camped outside their consulate in Beirut.
They include those who were abandoned by their employers, without pay or passports, as well as undocumented migrants and day labourers who have been unable to find work, according to Amnesty International.
Labour Minister Lamia Yammine Douaihy had on Wednesday condemned the “unfortunate scene” outside the consulate and pledged to take necessary measures against employers.
Employers “who left migrant workers stranded in front of the consulate will be punished by law and will be placed on a blacklist that prevents them from hiring foreign domestic workers again,” the ministry spokesman said.
He said the ministry would press employers to settle all outstanding payments they owe their domestic workers before they are repatriated, otherwise they will be punished by law.
Last month, the General Security agency said it had started organising repatriation flights for those who wished to return home.
On May 21, dozens of Ethiopians workers were repatriated, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported.
A quarter of a million migrants are employed as domestic workers in Lebanon, the large majority of them Ethiopian and many in conditions that have been condemned by human rights groups and their own governments.
A sponsorship system known as “kafala” leaves maids, nannies and carers outside the remit of Lebanese labour law and at the mercy of their employers, some paid as little as $150 a month before the downturn.
As dozens of Ethiopian women camp outside their consulate in #Beirut after employers abandoned them, @hrw calls on #Lebanon to establish a justice mechanism through which hastily repatriated workers can seek redress for human rights & labor violations. https://t.co/GUbrHjxTXc https://t.co/wQHrq8djox
— Aya Majzoub (@Aya_Majzoub) June 4, 2020