The Exploitation of Black African Women through the Kafala System

On the 4th August 2020, two explosions in the Lebanese capital claimed 137 lives, injured over 5,000 people and displaced thousands more. As Beirut reeled from the shock, stories emerged — reported by Al Jazeera and others — of the disaster’s impact on one of the city’s most vulnerable communities: migrant workers from African countries trapped by the exploitative ‘kafala’ system.

The kafala system is not new. It’s origins date back to the 1950s as a method of regulating the relationship between employers of migrant labourers in West Asia. The 1990s saw an influx of travelling workers in Lebanon, especially women from the global South in the domestic sector.

As a result, migrant workers in Lebanon live in positions of deep precarity — which the Beirut explosion threw into the spotlight. The incident occurred amidst an economic crisis with hundreds of labourers being abandoned by their employers. Such destruction left an already economically vulnerable minority now struggling for basic shelter. An estimated 24,500 members of the city’s migrant community were directly affected by the blast, with many left homeless.

English | November 7, 2021



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