Lebanon’s kafala system under fire in unprecedented lawsuit

0 0 0 0 0 An Ethiopian domestic worker is taking her employer and recruiter to court in Lebanon over the abuse and exploitation she alleges she experienced at their hands. This potentially ground-breaking case represents “an opportunity to open the door for abolishing the kafala system,” according to Fatima Shahade, Lebanon programme manager at Legal Action Worldwide.

An estimated 250,000 migrants carry out domestic work in Lebanon. They are often asked to sign a contract in Arabic before they leave their home country, meaning they are usually unaware of the conditions of their employment. In Lebanon, they are regulated by the notorious kafala sponsorship system which ties them to their employer. In practice, this means they cannot move to another job without their employer’s permission. Alternatively, they risk detention and deportation.   

The kafala system, which has long been denounced by human rights groups, leaves migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation. Survivors have reported serious mistreatment, such as confiscation of personal belongings and documents, physical and verbal abuse, and withholding of wages.  According to Lebanese General Security, an average of two migrant domestic workers die each week in the country. Many cases are assumed to be suicides, often with limited investigation from the police; others are reportedly caused by falls from buildings during attempts to flee.  

English | November 6, 2021



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