The Lebanese State Shura Council dealt a blow to the rights of migrant domestic workers

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Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch considered that “the Lebanese State Council, which is the highest administrative court in the country, has dealt a severe blow to the rights of migrant domestic workers by suspending the work of a new standard employment contract.” Pointing out that “the unified contract adopted by the Ministry of Labor on September 8, 2020, includes new protection measures for migrant domestic workers, including very important guarantees against forced labor, and it could have been an important first step towards abolishing the abusive sponsorship system.”

The two organizations stated that “On September 21, the Syndicate of Owners of Domestic Workers Recruitment Agencies submitted a complaint to the Shura Council, requesting the Council to stop implementing two decisions issued by the Minister of Labor to adopt the new unified contract for migrant domestic workers, and to limit the percentage of allowable deductions that the owner can The work is to deduct it from the salary of a domestic worker – which is equivalent to the national minimum wage – not exceeding 30 percent. ”Noting that“ On October 14, the Shura Council ruled in favor of recruitment agencies on the basis that the two decisions entail serious harm to the interests of those offices, and the council did not indicate To the rights of migrant domestic workers, which Lebanon is obligated to protect under international law. ”

She also confirmed that “there are an estimated 250,000 migrant domestic workers working in Lebanon. The vast majority of women come from countries in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, including Ethiopia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.” They are excluded from the protection of the Lebanese labor law, and their status in the country is regulated through the kafala system, which is a restrictive immigration system consisting of customary laws, regulations and practices that link the legal residency of migrant workers to the employer.

In this context, Amnesty International Lebanon Campaigns Officer Diala Haidar explained that “the disgraceful pattern of violations against migrant domestic workers under the sponsorship system must end, and the Lebanese authorities, including the judiciary, have an obligation to protect the rights of these workers instead of protecting the system. Facilitates exploitation, forced labor and human trafficking. ”

It is noteworthy that Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and many other organizations have “documented for years how the sponsorship system gives employers great control over workers’ lives. This has led to a host of violations, including non-payment. Wages, forced detention, excessive working hours without rest days or breaks, verbal, physical and sexual abuse. Those who left their employers without permission risked losing their legal residency in the country and facing detention and deportation. The previous contract provided an exception for workers in extreme cases of abuse. Treatment, in which the burden of proof falls on the MDW, which leaves workers with relationships, including in cases of forced labor.

The two organizations stressed in their statement that “according to the International Labor Organization, approximately 90 percent of migrant domestic workers working in Lebanon are employed through an office. Recruitment agencies in Lebanon employ workers through partner offices in their countries of origin. Or through its representatives abroad. Their business model relies on charging employers high recruitment fees ranging from $ 1,000 to $ 3,000. The International Labor Organization has found that employers are often unsure of what the fees cover. It also found that there are disparities. Significant recruitment fees, depending on the income of the employer and the nationality of the worker. ”

Both Amnesty International and “Human Rights Watch” documented the violations committed by recruitment agencies. Some offices required employers to pay them the first few months’ salary, in place of the worker, in violation of the worker’s rights. Some workers also reported that they were subjected to physical and verbal abuse, forced labor, and human trafficking at the hands of recruitment agencies.

The two organizations highlighted the “position of the Union of Workers’ Recruitment Office Owners, which considered that migrant domestic workers are specifically exempted from the labor law, and therefore their relationship with the employer is only governed by the law of obligations and contracts as long as it does not conflict with” public order, public morals, and general provisions. Considering that “the unified contract violates the principle of freedom of contract, as the two parties should have the ability to decide on the terms of the contract, including whether they should be bound by the minimum wage. The ruling of the State Council did not take into account the rights of women workers and the imbalance of power between the two parties.

She noted that “Lebanon is one of only two countries in the Middle East that host large numbers of migrant domestic workers, but it does not have any law that governs their relationship with the employer and gives them adequate protection and rights. Lebanon is bound by international human rights law.” , By ensuring that migrant domestic workers and migrant workers obtain protection measures equivalent to those enjoyed by other workers and workers under the law. The contract is the only legal document that migrant domestic workers have in Lebanon. Lebanon has had a standard contract for migrant domestic workers since 2009, but a copy 2009 lacks important safeguards against forced labor, does not meet international human rights and labor standards, and was adopted prior to the 2011 Domestic Workers Convention of the International Labor Organization.

The two organizations pointed out that “the new unified contract aims to correct the imbalance of power and grant female workers the basic work guarantees originally granted to the rest of the male and female workers, such as the 48-hour work week, the weekly rest day, the payment of overtime wages, the payment of sick leave wages and annual leave, and the approval of The national minimum wage, with some allowable deductions for housing and food. Most importantly, the new contract would have allowed workers to terminate their contract without the employer’s consent, thus dismantling a major abusive aspect of the sponsorship system.

Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch, said, “Migrant domestic workers are among the most marginalized groups in Lebanon.” With the country’s economic collapse, exacerbated by the repercussions of the Covid-19 virus, their already precarious situation turned from bad to worse. But instead of providing more protection, and dismantling the system that allows these workers to be exploited, the state’s Shura Council seemed to prioritize interests. Narrow commercial recruitment offices. ”

She pointed out that “it is not clear what means of defense provided by the Ministry of Labor, or whether it is planning to appeal, as an official in the Ministry of Labor declined to comment on this matter.” Human Rights Watch found, “The Lebanese judiciary fails to protect domestic workers or hold employers accountable when they violate workers’ basic rights. The Lebanese parliament should urgently amend the labor law to include migrant domestic workers. The Lebanese authorities should take urgent action. Other steps to dismantle the sponsorship system, including by ensuring that migrant workers do not rely on their employers for their legal status in the country.







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