Migrant workers’ children face marginalisation, racism

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Oct 20 2008

Lebanon has a bleak record of abuse against its migrant workers, with weak measures to ensure the protection of their rights. Sadly, the children of migrant workers, many of whom were born in the country yet have no legal status, have had to endure racism and marginalisation. From IRIN:

Children of domestic workers in Lebanon are an invisible segment of society.

Many of the estimated 200,000 migrant domestics living in Lebanon - most of them women from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia - have no legal status in the country.

Their children born in Lebanon thus have no official identity, and no statistics on their numbers exist.

For Sri Lankans, Filipinos and West Africans, Lebanese law allows for a child who is already registered in a Lebanese school to have residency, but many children of domestics face marginalisation and racism because of their parents' social status.

They long to leave for their parents’ country and be with their families.

Nisha’s story

Nisha, 11, was born in Lebanon. Her parents, originally from Sierra Leone, decided to seek employment in Lebanon during the mid 1990s due to the civil war in their country. A few years after Nisha was born her father was deported because he lost his legal sponsor and was caught by the Lebanese authorities without legal work papers. Nisha’s mother stayed behind and continues to work as a domestic.

“She’s not treated very well and she works a lot. My mother doesn’t like her work but she has to be able to provide for us,” said Nisha.

“I wish we could go to Sierra Leone but because I was born here I don’t have my papers to travel. My mum started the process two years ago to get our papers for Sierra Leone and now I just have to wait and see what happens. At the moment I can’t leave.

“Living here just makes you crazy because I deal with a lot of racism every day. I get into fights all the time with my Lebanese friends because they make racist remarks about me. Usually they start something with me and I return the favour.

“My friend Mona and I are planning to intern at a beauty salon. I want to work with hair when I get older so that I have a better salary and can take care of my Mum.”

Mona’s story

Mona, 15, has a Sri Lankan mother and a Jordanian father. Her mother came to Lebanon 20 years ago as a domestic worker. Like many domestics in Lebanon, Mona said her mother’s Madame began verbally and physically abusing her.

“I don’t like it here because I don’t fit in with the Lebanese and I would like to go to Sri Lanka and live the life of the people there,” said Mona.

“I want to see the rest of my family, speak my language and be around people who are like me.

“Because I was born in Lebanon my mother has been unable to obtain papers for me from the Sri Lankan embassy. She has to pay a lot of money to the embassy to have them do the paperwork for my passport and she can’t afford it. My father could have got me Jordanian citizenship but decided not to because it would mean that he would have to marry my mother. So I am stuck here.”

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East