May Day: Lebanon, marches to support immigrants workers

Calling for reforms to end abuses

30 April, 18:32

(ANSAmed) - BEIRUT, APRIL 30 - On the Sunday before International Workers' Day, around four hundred people marched through Beirut in support of the rights of immigrant workers in the country. Most of these workers are engaged as domestic help and work with families where their passports are routinely seized, leaving them at risk of being subjected to abuse.

According to reports in the Lebanese press, the march took place on a Sunday because most domestic servants have only this day free each week and would be unlikely to have a May Day holiday.

''Workers, not Slaves'' read one of the banners carried by the marchers. Working conditions for the around 200,000 immigrant workers in Lebanon, who come from countries in Africa and Asia, have been in the news once again following last month's suicide of an Ethiopian au pair, Alem Dechasa-Desisa.

The woman had previously appeared in a video on the Internet in which she is roughly handled and forced to board a car. The organisers of the demonstration called in particular for the abolition of a law stating that every foreign worker needs to have a sponsor - normally the employer - who should take charge of their passport. Many cases have been reported of domestic assistants being forced to stay indoors permanently, without a single day off and without their most basic rights being recognised. A declaration read aloud during the demonstration stated: ''We call upon the Lebanese government to abolish the system of sponsorship, to bring foreign workers within normal employment regulations, to set up a better system for their protection and to ensure that they have access to assistance when they need it''. (ANSAmed).

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