Migrant domestic workers dying every week in Lebanon

27 August 2008

More than one migrant domestic worker a week dies in Lebanon from suicide or by accident in a desperate attempt to escape from their employers, according to Human Rights Watch.

Since January 2007, 95 migrant domestic workers have died in the Lebanon. Forty were classed as suicide and 24 fell to their deaths during bids to escape from the balconies or windows of their employer’s flats.

Over two-thirds (64) were Ethiopian, 14 were from the Philippines and 9 were Sri Lankan. The rest came from Bangladesh, Eritrea, Madagascar and Nepal.

Migrant domestic workers are not entitled to the minimum wage in Lebanon. A 2006 survey of domestic workers in Lebanon, conducted by the American University of Cairo, found 31 per cent were not allowed to leave their employer’s home, which is an indicator of forced labour.

Anti-Slavery International’s own research has found cases of migrant domestic workers across the Middle East, including the Lebanon, in conditions of slavery. Abuses included the confiscation of passports, restriction on the freedom of movement, non-payment or delayed payment of wages and verbal, physical, or sexual abuse.

Anti-Slavery International calls on all governments to protect migrant domestic workers by granting them the same employment rights as their own nationals. Also, in order to protect them from slavery, it is essential that the immigration status of migrant domestic workers is not tied to their employer.

The most effective way for governments to protect migrant domestic workers from slavery is to ratify the United Nation’s International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990).

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