Monday, July 6, 2020

In the midst of an economic crisis in Lebanon, the plight of Ethiopian servants

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At night, young Ethiopian women watch and whisper in Amharic, sitting on a sidewalk under the windows of their consulate, in Hazmieh, a suburb of Beirut. Others fell asleep on the floor or on a piece of cardboard. Pressed in front of cheap suitcases gathered against the wall, they sum up the years spent in Lebanon, polishing the houses and hoping to improve their lot.

This place has been resonating for several weeks with the suffering of Ethiopian women. They form the largest contingent of foreign domestic workers in Lebanon, who are also suffering from the serious economic and financial crisis that the country is going through. Some were abandoned by their employer in front of the consulate. Mazaa, 23, former nanny and housekeeper, cross around her neck, hides her face. "Ma Madame (employer) told me they couldn't pay me anymore. I was earning $ 150. I could stay with them without pay. I refused. They drove me here, and said, Your country only has to take care of you. "

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Others, in an irregular situation, have no more resources because of the crisis. Like Tigist, 35, who has been living with his family for the past few years, with her Sudanese husband and their two children, 4 and 2 years old: “Everyday life was unbearable at home. My husband was causing a lot of problems. In recent times he has not worked. Food has become very expensive (due to inflation). Here I am on the street, with the children. My old lady confiscated my passport. I had fled her home because she was paying me too bad. The consulate does not help us at all. "

"Guardianship" system

They all mention the loss of income, following the collapse of the Lebanese pound and the scarcity of precious dollars, which they sent to their relatives in Ethiopia. More than two months of confinement deprived those who made the households in "free-lance" of work, without living in the home of their "boss". In some homes, employers have been laid off.

"Families hide behind the excuse of not being able to pay to abandon their domestic worker on the street. But these difficulties cannot be a justification. This attitude is very demeaning, it is the result of the kafala system (supervision in Arabic), which gives an employer full powers over his employee ", deplores Ghina Al-Andary, social worker at Kafa, an association working for the protection of migrant women.

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