Domestic Slavery in Lebanon

A few weeks ago on Long Island, New York, there appeared shocking revelations of Indonesian domestics kept as virtual slaves in a wealthy home of some business people. There is increasing evidence slavery of domestics is happening throughout the world. Lebanon currently has a servant for every 16 people, but these workers are not covered by the national labor law.

As with the case of the Long Island Indonesians, domestic workers in Lebanon are not allowed to socialize outside of the home in which they work, and few are aware of their rights in Lebanon. They are subjected to incredible working conditions because, as in most cases, they are illegal immigrants desperate for work. They confront abuses ranging from non-payment of wages, refusal to give days off, and sexual and physical abuse. It is common in Lebanon for employers to take possession of a domestic worker’s passport. If they leave prior to end of their contract they are technically an illegal immigrant who can be arrested.

According to Father Martin McDermott of the Direct Pastoral Committee for Asian and African Migrants, it is common for employers to rush to the police when a domestic worker leaves and claim, “my Filipina ran away.” Ordinarily, the police inquire if anything is missing which provides a perfect opportunity for the employer to claim money was stolen by the domestic. “Employers often lie and tell a worker they are sending money to their home country every month,” but at the end of their contract they find no such money was sent.

It is estimated about 15,300 Ethiopians enter Lebanon each year. Since the Ethiopian government opened a Consulate in Beirut they have discovered that a total of 98 workers died, all but ten from what the police ruled “suicides.”

Experts estimate about 200,000,000 migrants are working right now in a country that is not their land of birth. We are experiencing a world-wide shifting of populations, but lost in the shuffle are hundreds of thousands who find themselves stuck in a country that regards them as foreigners and denies them equal rights. Isn’t it about time the United Nations began to develop guidelines for domestic workers throughout the world?
Information from Lebanon Daily Star