- Title: Migrant workers in Lebanon demand more rights
- Date: 31st May 2017
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) UNIDENTIFIED SRI LANKAN WOMEN, DAUGHTER OF DOMESTIC WORKER IN LEBANON, SAYING: (FACING AWAY FROM CAMERA TO CONCEAL IDENTITY) "I am facing many difficulties with continuing my studies, because of the residency. I am in constant fear whether they will give me a residency or not, would I be able to continue forward or not?" VARIOUS OF MIGRANT WORKERS ATTENDING AN ENGLISH CLASS AT MCC (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) UNIDENTIFIED ETHIOPIAN DOMESTIC WORKER IN LEBANON SAYING: (FACING AWAY FROM CAMERA TO CONCEAL IDENTITY) "I live in fear, I am very afraid. I have five children. If I get deported, where would I go? I don't know." VARIOUS OF LEAFLETS ON TABLE AT MCC SIGN ON BALCONY READING (English and Arabic): 'MCC. MIGRANT COMMUNITY CENTRE. BEIRUT' EXTERIOR OF BUILDING WHERE MCC IS LOCATED
- Embargoed: 14th June 2017 13:20
- Keywords: Lebanon rights migrants domestic workers Human Rights Watch
- Location: BEIRUT, LEBANON
- City: BEIRUT, LEBANON
- Country: Lebanon
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA0036J62DSL
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Migrant workers in Lebanon recently took to the streets to protest against difficult living conditions.
The country hosts more than 200,000 migrant domestic workers, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Currently workers are employed under the "Kafala" sponsorship system, which binds them to a single employer and leaves them vulnerable to abuse.
Protesters demanded to be protected by the country's labour laws and for the government to abolish the current sponsorship system.
"We just come here, like any Lebanese citizen, they work outside, to work here, you know, to make some money, so we deserve respect and we deserve like treated like human beings. We take care of their family and their kids so we wouldn't get respect," Ethiopian domestic worker Banchi said, surrounded by banners and flags.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), some workers have even been deported for having children while in the country.
Lebanon has deported at least 21 domestic workers with children, many of them Sri Lankan, since the summer of 2016, the human rights charity said.
Researcher at HRW, Bassam Khawaja, called for the General Security, Lebanon's agency in charge of immigration, to stop unfairly punishing migrant workers for having children.
"General Security needs to stop deporting women for having children in the country. They should not be punished just to try to have a family here, some of these women have lived here for 20, 30 years, some of whom I spoke to came to Lebanon during the civil war and have been working here since then. Their children have grown up here and the deportations have really split up families, they have caused parents to lose their jobs and they have interrupted children's education, and so these are enormously painful deportations for the people involved. But Lebanon needs to go further than that, they should reform the Kafala system," he said.
Migrant workers in Lebanon are mostly from Asian and African countries, many having lived in Lebanon for decades.
At one Migrant Community Centre in Beirut's Ashrafieh neighbourhood, workers receive English classes, undergo activities and seek help when needed.
Two women, Sri Lankan and Ethiopian, shared their stories but asked to remain anonymous.
"I am facing many difficulties with continuing my studies, because of the residency. I am in constant fear whether they will give me a residency or not, would I be able to continue forward or not?" said the 16-year-old Sri Lankan who was born in Lebanon to a Sri Lankan domestic worker and attends school in the capital.
The student, who dreams of study micro-biology in university and considers Lebanon her second home but faces many residency issues.
Another women, an Ethiopian domestic worker, who came to Lebanon in 2001, married a Sudanese worker and gave birth to five children in Lebanon.
She said her husband was deported some years ago, without any notice and without her knowing any details.
She has lived illegally in Lebanon since 2016, working to feed her children and living in constant fear of being caught.
"I live in fear, I am very afraid. I have five children. If I get deported, where would I go? I don't know," she said.
Many migrant workers are women who work as live-in maids in well-off Lebanese households. They often do everything from heavy housework to nannying and helping with children's homework.
More than 80 percent of the world's 53 million domestic workers are women, according to the ILO. Often unregistered and unprotected by labour laws, they are among the most vulnerable groups of workers in the world.
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