Lebanese Take to The Streets for Workers' Rights

Published May 6th, 2019 - 10:55 GMT

Hundreds of Lebanese activists and domestic workers took to the streets on Sunday in protest of the controversial "Kafala System" and in support of migrant workers.

Few days on the occasion of the International Labour Day, the protest was organized by a number of activists and domestic workers’ rights groups; including Kafa, the Anti-Racism Movement and the Migrant Community Center.

Protesters took to streets holding banners that demand better working conditions for domestic workers.

Demands to abolish the Kafala system has been also taking a large part of the protest. The Kafala system, also known as the sponsorship, that allows employers to control the workers’ travel permissions, chance to change employers or return home without their “Kafeel” or legal sponsor approval, otherwise the worker might face arrest or deportation.

The protesters were mostly current or former domestic workers in Lebanon who have been subject to abuse or have their rights violated due to the discriminatory laws against domestic workers.

Domestic and migrant workers rights in Lebanon have been a massive problem for the past few years with rising voices demanding the abolishment of discriminatory laws; including the Kafala, and grant workers their rights.

Last week on the occasion of Labour Day, the Free Patriotic Movement faced massive criticism for sharing a Labour Day protest on social media that congratulate workers and call on businesses not to hire foreign workers, in a cryptic reference to migrant workers of the Syrian refugees who arrived in Lebanon fleeing the war in Syria.

Translation: “Lebanon’s beautiful fascism. No to racism against Syrian refugees and Palestinians. No to the abuse of foreign domestic workers.”

Lebanese activists and social media users have shared several photos taken in Lebanon on Labour Day to highlight the issue of domestic workers abuse.

Translation: “This is a photo to reflect Labour Day in Lebanon.”
Translation: “Someone sent me this photo today. A domestic worker sitting in the car trunk. It is your call to add the comment.”

A report released by Amnesty International in April 2019 showed that the Kafala System has increased the risk of employees facing rights violations, physical and sexual abuse in addition to a number of labor violations including their low wages and long working hours.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s authorities have banned a website called “This is Lebanon”, on which activists are sharing stories of abuse against domestic workers taking place in Lebanon. It is being run by a former worker in Lebanon who currently resides in Canada.

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