This week, Beirut-based NGO KAFA released a report entitled “Dreams for Sale: The Exploitation of Domestic Workers from Recruitment in Nepal and Bangladesh to Working Lebanon” based on 100 interviews with Nepali and Bangladeshi workers. The report found that exploitative recruitment practices preyed on domestic workers both at home and abroad.
Middlemen, brokers, and agencies charge workers inflated recruitment fees that often require workers to take loans or sell personal items. Many workers are then forced into debt bondage, paying off their debts for upwards of a year. The Kafala system means that workers are often forced to stay in exploitative conditions because they cannot transfer employers easily, but also cannot return home without paying their debt.
The deception is not only financial - recruiters also sell domestic workers on a different life, capturing their interest with false promises of their working conditions, salary, and general quality of life abroad. The report found that 88% of MDWs survey said they would not have come to Lebanon “had they fully known the reality.”
Workers face no relief once they arrive in Lebanon. Recruiters often charge employers and workers for the same fees, such as visa and airline costs. Employers also pay inflated recruitment costs and sometimes deduct these fees from a workers salary, subjecting them to indentured servitude.
Nepal currently bans domestic workers from travel to Lebanon as well as the Gulf states, where workers face similar trajectories of exploitation. Yet, domestic workers continue to migrate to these countries through undocumented routes and continue to endure the same conditions.
Increased coherency between origin and destination countries is essential to ending the dual exploitation of migrant domestic workers. The rights of domestic workers, as well as employers, demands more regulation and transparency throughout the recruitment and employment cycles.
KAFA is a Beirut-based organization working to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence and the exploitation of women and children