Within the realm of the human rights debate in Lebanon is the issue of migrant domestic worker rights. Lebanon has a population of 4 million people and employs 200,000 migrant domestic workers to do everything from basic household cleaning and nannying to in-home elderly and disabled persons care. This means that there is approximately one Filapina, Sri Lankan, Bengali, Malagasy, Ethiopian, Eritrean, or Nepalese worker to every 10 Lebanese persons!
KAFA (enough), the local NGO working toward eliminating gender-based violence and exploitation, recently published this report about the link between migrant workers and human trafficking. Why is KAFA working on the issue of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon? Unfortunately, it is because the women who are employed in Lebanon are prone to abuse, suicide, and murder. It is estimated that there is one suicide per week in Lebanon by these workers. And ‘suicide’ may not be the correct word, considering that the Lebanese police investigate these incidents for about 20 minutes before closing the case and leaving the scene, leaving no possibility for homicide.
The study that was published addressed the link between human trafficking and migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. It was a legal case study of international law and included legal definitions of slavery, forced labor, and servitude. Legally, it is difficult to determine if slavery can apply to these women working in Lebanon. However, it is important to point out that 65% of the migrant workers interviewed for the survey said that they felt that they were in a situation of slavery while employed in Lebanon… so, maybe it isn’t so hard after all to link trafficking and migrant work in Lebanon.