When we talk about Lebanon and migrants, we think about the refugees of the war in Syria. But if we go beyond the surface we discover that in this same area there is another reality that deserves great attention. It is that of immigrant Lebanon women.
There are more than 250,000 women from Africa and Asia who have to work as domestic helpers. The problem here is that they too often face human rights violations of various kinds.
The Phenomenon of Exploited Lebanon Women
Almost all families in Lebanon have a maid and it is common to see young girls with African traits carrying around the children of Lebanese parents.
This phenomenon has its roots in an institutionalized system rooted throughout the Middle East. It is the Kafala, a form of modern slavery.
Literally translated as “sponsorship“, the Kafala is a system that inexorably links the legal status of immigrants to private citizens or companies that sponsor them. Thanks to this mechanism, hundreds of thousands of young domestic servants have arrived in the country over the years. Here often the same employers, through agencies, take charge of them by anticipating the cost of their visa. The girls are first of all recruited in their countries of origin. Once they arrive in Lebanon, they go directly to the homes of the families for whom they will work.
Here they will receive a work permit for the duration of the contract. After that, once the contract is over and they lose the right to stay in Lebanon, the sponsor will pay for the return flight and make sure that the workers returns to their country. This system prevents them from being able to leave work freely if, as is often the case, they are subjected to violence. If they do that, in fact, they lose their visas and have to go home.
Inhumane Working Conditions
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has decided to conduct a study to analyze this terrible phenomenon. The researchers interviewed 600 immigrant domestic workers to find out what their working conditions were. As a result, they found that immigrant domestic workers work between 16 and 17 hours a day. On average, they earn $200 a month, some of which they sent to families in their country of origin. And in many cases, there is no actual salary.
The story of Mali, one of the women interviewed in the Ilo research, is an example of this. The woman, who immigrated to Lebanon from Sri Lanka, worked in Beirut for 14 months and received a total of $300. Subsequently, her agency sent her to Syria, where she received a salary of $200 for 7 months of work. In almost two years, as a domestic worker, Mali managed to send $300 to her mother, while she kept $200 for herself.