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ILO Produces Guide for Lebanon's Domestic Workers

On November 29, 2012

On Tuesday, the International Labor Organization (ILO) along with Lebanon’s Ministry of Labor launched an interactive web guide for migrant domestic workers. The website features a number of innovative resources for Lebanon’s domestic workers and relevant NGOs. The ILO produced a report alongside the website’s launch, which seeks to improve the services provided by Lebanese NGOs that cater to domestic workers. The report, “Working with migrant domestic workers in Lebanon (1980s-2012),” can be accessed here.

Primary features of the website include an illustrative map that identifies the location, services, and activities of Lebanon’s 18 domestic worker-oriented NGOs. The map is intended to connect migrant workers with NGOs in their geographic proximity and according to their needs, as well as to improve coordination amongst the NGOs themselves. Additionally, the site includes a catalog of organizations in migrant-sending nations, as well as basic facts and figures pertaining to Lebanon’s migrant worker demography.

The site also features several interactive learning lessons. A guide to basic Arabic phrases as well as an introduction to Lebanese society intends to ease the transition for new migrant workers. Another simulation is customized to a migrant’s country of origin, guiding them from their departure through their return. This particular guide may be difficult to access for some migrant workers, as it appears to require a fast internet connection and up-to-date software. However, this simulation as well as the majority of the site’s content is available in PDF and hard-copy format. The physical guides will be distributed with the objective of accessibility - in markets, Western Unions, as well as departure sites and offices in migrant-sending nations.

The Daily Star Lebanon attended the website’s launch, which was coordinated by the Ministry of Labor and the ILO. Officials alluded to new migrant-worker laws inclusive of domestic worker rights, but eschewed concrete commitment by emphasizing that the laws remained “under review.” In the past, Lebanese authorities have paraded proposed legislation as evidence of its concern for migrant rights, but often failed to proceed to enact these bills. Reforming labor regulation is a lengthy process, but an inordinate number draft laws never progress beyond this preliminary review stage. Pledges alone are no guarantee for migrant workers. In fact, the ILO’s report recommend that NGOs concentrate efforts on policy advocacy as a means to promote prevention of abuse, in addition to redressing domestic worker issues.

However, this ILO-Lebanese endeavor nonetheless represents an unmatched resource for migrant domestic workers and should serve as a model for the wider Middle East. Though the current absence of a large pre-existing civil society focused on migrant worker rights may preclude the development of a comparable service, the ILO’s catalog offers diverse examples of Lebanese NGOs that activists in the region can study and emulate.