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List of proposed solutions to insure the rights of foreign maids in Lebanon

On December 17, 2009

The following is a listing solutions and measures meant to secure the fundamental rights of female migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. These proposals have been collected in reports, studies and press releases from Human Right Watch, the International Labour Organization and Caritas-Lebanon. They address to the Lebanese government, foreign missions of the sending countries, private and public institutions or associations, businesses and NGOs.

Revise labour laws to include migrant domestic workers on an equal basis as Lebanese citizens regarding to labour international protection standards.

Revise sponsorship laws (make temporary professional visas non specific about the employer so that the migrant worker can escape him without losing legal status; eliminate exit laissez-passer that require consent of the employer).

Have Lebanon ratify and enforce the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

Establish a unified autonomous governmental bureau responsible for policy-making and information-gathering on migrant workers in the country (guidelines for other departments; data collecting through polls and inquiries; cooperation of migrants’ rights group…).

Inter-government cooperation between Lebanon and sending countries to improve the standardized work contract (set up in January 2009) which should be written in the native language of both the employer and the employee and which should enshrine more strictly several fundamental guarantees (remuneration, working conditions, freedom of movement, conservation of passports, work and rest hours…) and implement legal mechanisms to enforce it on a daily basis.

Monitoring working and living conditions of female migrant domestic workers in Lebanese households for example through regular meetings between an appointed labour inspector and the worker alone or through unexpected checking visits by officials, thus enforcing the standard employment contract’s provisions.

Sign-up bilateral agreements for swift repatriation in case of serious abuse or withholding of the worker’s identity papers by the employer.

Arrange « safe houses » (particularly in sending countries’ embassies) providing legal and social assistance to female migrant domestic workers and their children (accommodation for “runaway” maids; health care; trauma counseling; free of charge lawyers; recreational activities; awareness sessions on migrant’s rights and mechanisms of complaint and redress; vocational training and schooling; activities shared with Lebanese people in order to promote inter-nationality dialogue and respect).

Expand microfinance loans allowing female migrant domestic workers to pay off their debts at home and thus giving them the opportunity to escape financial traps (which restrain them to accept abuse and appalling working and living conditions) and to pay for migration costs thus lowering financial pressure on Lebanese employers (whom therefore should be less keen on protecting their investment by seizing the maid’s passport and restricting her freedom of movements).

Provide police forces with training to identify and respond to abuse against migrant domestic workers (conduct real investigations rather than classifying abuse cases; properly investigate cases of suicide among domestic workers; make sure abused workers fill in complaints form; send runaways to their foreign diplomatic mission rather than drive them back to their employer).

Provide migrant domestic workers with information about their rights (and especially detainees for false accusation of theft or illegal status after running away).

Improve courts liability and efficiency regarding cases of abuse against foreign domestic workers (ensure the presence of competent translators during legal proceedings; granting abused domestic workers with free legal assistance and representation; clarify and enforce complaint mechanisms; establish precedents regarding such strategic issues as withholding of passports and wages, physical and psychological abuse, poor living conditions and exploitative working hours and chores; mete out and implement proper penalties for employers and agencies violating migrant’s and laborer’s rights; invoke adequate provisions within criminal law and international conventions).

Raise national awareness and attention on this issue (set up public media campaigns, focusing for example on drawing parallel with the Lebanese people’s own experience of emigration and on fighting racism which is deeply linked with female domestic workers’ lot, and get judges to make public statements and warnings).

Enact special clauses within the staff rules of Lebanese private and public institutions, associations and firms and ensuring the registration and decent treatment of foreign domestic employees under threat of disciplinary measures.

Regulate and monitor employment agencies (license-accreditation procedures; hold agents responsible for their actions; set forth clearly defined fees and placement practices…)

Ensure any medical testing or administration of contraceptive medication is performed with informed consent and respecting confidentiality of medical information

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