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Notes on the Situation of Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon

On November 26, 2009

When I was interviewed by a journalist from El Mundo (Spain) regarding the situation of foreign maids in Lebanon, we somewhat agreed that migrant domestic workers in Lebanon are well treated “in a significant number of homes”. There’s a lot of generalization about the “evil” Lebanese housewives. But 95% of the people I know who have MDWs at home (family, friends) do not mistreat in any way their maids. (There’s one exception though where the women employer suffers the superiority complex like many Lebanese).

So, it’s not all about bad housewives! One aspect of the problem is the complete absence of safety nets for that category of mistreated migrant workers the percentage of which we do not know.

And to illustrate the complication of the problem, I talked with many people about the need for “a hot-line” where beaten maids can call for help. But that hot-line will have to be able to respond in fluent Ethiopian, Sri Lankan, Nepalese, Malagasy, Bengali, Eritrean, Pilipino, etc. 24 hours / 7 days. Who’s going to set up and finance that? And we need brochures in all these languages informing of the hot-line. How will we distribute all those brochures?

In one case where a migrant domestic worker dragged to courts several years ago in Lebanon, she couldn’t speak Arabic or English. A French priest who’s involved in migrant rights protection, and had lived in her country, understood her language and was translating to French. And a translator was translating from French to Arabic for the judge and lawyers.

This was originally posted on Ethiopian Suicides, and posted here with permission