Lebanon’s new work contract end of ‘kafala’?

BEIRUT: Lebanon has approved a new work contract allowing foreign domestic workers to resign and keep hold of their own passport, but activists say the exploitative “kafala” system remains in place. The economic crisis-hit Mediterranean country is home to around 250,000 migrants, mostly women from Africa and Asia, who toil away in people’s homes as housekeepers, carers or nannies.

They are not protected by the country’s labor law, but instead work under a set of laws, policies and customs called kafala repeatedly slammed by rights groups as allowing a wide range of abuse. Under kafala, meaning “sponsorship” in Arabic, the employer sponsors the worker’s legal immigration status in the country, and the latter cannot resign without their consent or they become undocumented. The law also does not ban withholding a worker’s passport.

All this leaves a worker at the employer’s mercy. Lebanon’s economic and coronavirus crises have increased the urgency for reform over the past year, with many families now paying their workers in the devaluated local currency, and some not at all. In recent months, dozens of foreign helpers have been thrown out into the streets without due pay or even their passport, many of them interviewed by AFP.

English | September 19, 2020



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