Lebanon News

Activists press judiciary to protect migrant domestic workers

Insan Association Director Charles Nasrallah shows a booklet during a news conference in Beirut, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: The judiciary must do more to protect domestic migrant workers from abuse, activists said Wednesday during the launch of a new booklet aimed at raising awareness about such issues among legal professionals.

“Some facts about Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon 2012-2013,” a 27-page leaflet in Arabic outlines laws affecting foreign domestic workers, incidents of human rights abuses over the past year and information on relevant civil society organizations. The book was published by the Insan Association, an NGO, with support from the Open Society Foundation.

Prominent lawyers and activists led a discussion at La Sagesse University on the importance of legal protection of foreign domestic workers in Lebanon, who number approximately 200,000 and mainly hail from poor areas of Asia and Africa.

“This is just one step,” said Lala Arabian, executive manager at Insan, which focuses on the rights of migrant workers. She noted that “a lot more still needs to be done” in terms of putting pressure on lawmakers to change existing laws that give little in the way of legal protection to Lebanon’s foreign domestic workers.

The booklet will be distributed to lawyers and judges throughout Lebanon with the intention of emphasizing that abuse can and should be prosecuted to the full extent of Lebanon’s criminal laws, even though domestic migrant workers are not covered under Lebanon’s labor law.

“Very few cases of abuse [of foreign domestic workers] have gone to court,” Arabian said, explaining why the initiative targeted the judiciary in particular. “They [lawyers and judges] need to do a lot more to defend them.”

Charles Nasrallah, director of Insan, said he feels optimistic that Lebanon is making progress, albeit slowly.

“If you compare it to five or 10 years ago, there’s much more awareness, and there’s more pressure on the government,” he added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 24, 2013, on page 4.

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