Lebanon: Stranded Ethiopian domestic workers plead consulate to return home

Fired Ethiopian domestic workers, many of whom who lived with their employers until recently, gathered outside their homeland's consulate in Beirut on Tuesday, as they sought to be repatriated. Many workers reported being left outside the building by former employers who failed to pay them or return their travel documents before doing so. Some of the domestic workers, who have been stranded in the country since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, were filmed sleeping outside the consulate on mattresses. Harig, one of the workers, said, «They all have Lebanese employers, and according to what both sides say, the Lebanese employers do not have the money to pay them their salaries.» «Some of them haven't received salaries for one and a half years, while some for nine months. There is a girl who has been working for three years and sleeps in her workplace. Most of the girls did not receive their salary and most girls ask to travel, but employers say they do not have funds for the cost of a ticket,» she added. «We ask our embassy to transfer our papers so that we can travel to our country and from Lebanese employers and the Lebanese state to please let us return,» said Harig. According to reports, around 150,000 Ethiopian women work as domestic workers in Lebanon. Under the Kefala, or sponsorship, system in Lebanon employers are legally obliged to pay for the return tickets of their employees and while confiscating workers travel documents is illegal, it remains commonplace. Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with soaring unemployment and the Lebanese pound plummeting in value against the dollar, with the recent coronavirus outbreak only adding to the country's economic woes.
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