Lebanon is home to over 200,000 migrant domestic workers from Asian and African countries, including the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Cameroon. They are excluded from the Lebanese Labour Law and governed by the Kafala system, which leaves them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
In early 2015, a group of these women formed a trade union – the first of its kind in the region – to advocate for the rights of domestic workers. The Ministry of Labour, however, refused to recognize the union and considered it illegitimate. Rather than protect the domestic workers’ right to organize, Lebanese security forces cracked down on women unionists and community leaders. One such organizer was Sujana Rana, who was deported (ironically, on International Human Rights Day) by the Lebanese General Security in 2016.
We met with Sujana Rana in Nepal, two years after her deportation, and she shared her story:
The Lebanese government should uphold migrant domestic workers’ rights to freedom of association and assembly, as well as the right to collective bargaining. They should immediately cease the exclusion of migrant weeks from the Lebanese Labour Law.
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