Líbano - Migrant Domestic workers abused and excluded (2012)

Lebanon has an estimated 200,000 domestic workers, primarily from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and the Philippines. The Philippines, Ethiopia, Nepal and Madagascar all ban their citizens from working in Lebanon due to extensive abuse. It is estimated that one domestic worker commits suicide in Lebanon every week on average. They remain essentially outside of crucial labour laws and subject to exploitation and frequent abuse by employers and agencies including non-payment of wages, forced confinement at the workplace, no time off, and verbal or physical abuse. Reports estimate that only 1% of migrant domestic workers are allowed to keep their passports. The sponsorship system ties the worker’s residency to a specific employer, making it very hard for a domestic worker to change employers, even in cases of abuse. Once employment is terminated the worker loses residency, making it difficult to file complaints because workers fear detention owing to their illegal status.

The government issued new regulations (Standard Unified Contract) in 2009, requiring each employer to abide by a set of rules including paying workers their salary in full at the end of each month, providing weekly time off and setting a maximum number of working hours. However, the government has failed to take appropriate sanctions against employers who abuse migrant domestic workers, and in practice many employers continue to overwork, underpay and abuse their domestic workers. The Philippines have operated a ban on deploying domestic workers to Lebanon since 2006 but have recently held discussions with Lebanese authorities aimed at reversing the restrictions, provided the government takes steps to guarantee a greater degree of protection. Some 40,000 Filipinos are thought to work in Lebanon despite the ban. In January, however some 100 Filipino domestic workers who had been abused by their employers were repatriated.

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