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Article

16 May 2022

Author:
The New Arab

Opinion: In the midst of elections and ongoing complicity by domestic workers agencies, Lebanon should abolish the abusive kafala system to protect migrant workers' basic rights

"Abolishing Kafala must be a priority in Lebanon's elections" 13 May 2022

With all of Lebanon's atrocities under a corrupt political regime, migrant domestic workers tied to the Kafala system...are some of the most affected. Migrant workers in Lebanon are captured by the Kafala employment system, which is effectively modern-day slavery...

Almost three-quarters of victims of modern-day slavery are women and girls. Even though there are migrant workers that are men...

The Kafala system relies on the recruitment and exploitation of non-native workers who are subjected to slavery conditions as they work in the households of the Lebanese middle and upper classes"

Article 7 of the Lebanese Labour Law excludes migrant domestic workers, denying them rights and protections...Official figures suggest there are approximately 250,000 registered domestic workers in Lebanon; however, this...does not include undocumented workers.

Discrimination against these workers is often based on their nationality and skin colour. Employers...and agents are complicit in breaching human rights daily as there are no labour laws in place to protect the most basic rights of migrant domestic workers.

In the upcoming 15 May elections, the rights of migrant domestic workers, their inclusion in the labour law and the recognition of domestic work as work have been left out of political discourse. Even opposition party manifestos do not tackle the issue of migrant workers' rights.

For now, the country continues to turn a blind eye to modern-day slavery and refuses to acknowledge the enormous systemic racism issue. Reforms to the Kafala system will not work, modern-day slavery cannot be reformed. Ultimately, any goal of any attempts to improve labour laws in Lebanon must firstly abolish Kafala...

This must include removing ties between the employer and worker, giving the worker freedom to effectively end their employment and seek further employment opportunities...