Lebanon Migrant Deaths 'a National Tragedy'

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Nov 22 2009

At least nine migrant women have taken their own lives in the months of October and November. The women, from Nepal, the Philippines, Ethiopia and Madagascar, had been working as maids.

'It's a national tradedy' Nadim Houry, a Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch, told IPS (see full story here)

Many women working as maids in Lebanon do not receive a regular salary, are not given a day off and are subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Some are never allowed out of the house where they work.

A number of countries have banned their nationals from working as maids in Lebanon, but according to Houry this does little to solve the problem of abuse by employers. Bans only 'transfer the problem from one nationality to another', since recruitment agencies simply look to new developing countries to recruit maids from.

This article also emphasizes role of irresponsible and corrupt recruitment agencies in the recent chain of suicides. Agencies will often check a maid's personal belongings for any phone numbers or addresses of consulates, and if any such details are found, they are destroyed, according to Aimee, a Madagascan maid and community leader living in Lebanon.

Houry also blames recruitment agencies for giving women from poor countries unrealistic expectations about what they will be doing in Lebanon- many are led to believe that they will be working as nurses or in other professional jobs.

For previous coverage of the string of housemaids' suicides in Lebanon see this report and commentary on Migrant-Rights.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East