Hundreds of migrant domestic workers flown home from Lebanon

Hundreds of migrant domestic workers flown home from Lebanon
2 min read
20 December, 2020
Hundreds of Lebanon's most vulnerable migrant domestic workers have been repatriated with funds raised by local charities, but thousands more remain stuck.
Priority help has been given to women with medical conditions and those with children [Getty]
Hundreds of Lebanon's stranded migrant domestic workers have been repatriated with funds raised by local charities, Reuters reported on Saturday.

The migrant women workers have returned to home countries, including Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Nigeria, despite numerous bureaucratic hurdles, campaigners said, warning that thousands more remained stuck as Lebanon battles a deep economic crisis amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Priority help has been given to women with medical conditions and those with children, who have lost their job and housing due to the economic crisis.

"They have medical issues, some of them have kids, some of them are pregnant, some of them face domestic violence and want to get out of the country," said Banchi Yimer, founder of the Egna Legna Besidet workers' rights group, according to Reuters.

Money raised has mostly been used to provide food, shelter and medication but part of the funds was used to helps stranded migrant workers travel back home. 

"Everybody wants to go home - some have been waiting for months," Banchi said.

"But we can't afford to send 400,000 people... so we are picking the most vulnerable."

Lebanon hosts over 250,000 foreign workers, some working illegally, who are employed under the country's kafala sponsorship system, a scheme that ultimately ties workers to their employers.

Labour groups say that the true figures are likely to be much higher, with Ethiopians alone making up more than 400,000 of the migrant community.

Many of the women have been abandoned by their employers and recruitment agencies, leaving them without pay, their belongings, or even their passports, according to Amnesty International. 

Some women were left in the street by employers who could not afford to pay them, while others lost everything when a massive blast devastated parts of the capital.

Ignored by their embassies, several have had to sleep rough on the pavement before they could find shelter.

Banchi said the migrants, who sought work in Lebanon to support their families back home, were returning to their countries in a desperate state.

"They work so hard for two or three years and they go back with zero and have to start over again."

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