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Ban on Ethiopian domestic workers’ traveling to Lebanon for protective reasons

10-12-2018

In its issue of December 8, Al Akhbar newspaper brought to light last month’s decision by the Ethiopian government to ban the travel of its nationals to Lebanon after the Lebanese labor minister refused to sign a memorandum of understanding to improve the conditions and rights of female migrant domestic workers (https://bit.ly/2QmNIF6). On the subject, the director of FENASOL, Castro Abdallah, explained that the MoU entails many provisions, notably, raising the salary of the MWDW, limiting working hours, and ensuring the right to a day off per week, but did not clarify if the memo required an annulment of the sponsorship (kafala) system. For his part, the member of the Syndicate of Recruiting Agencies, Hisham Bourji, said that the MoU was submitted to the labor ministry three years ago, but was not given priority and was delayed by bureaucratic processes which prevented its immediate approval in signing. In a related vein, some human rights jurists have voiced their concern over the enactment of the travel ban. ILO’s FAIRWAY/Work in Freedom project coordinator, Zeina Mezher, pointed out that although the ban is a means of pressure to improve working conditions in the country of destination, however, studies have shown that it increases the risk of exploitation and trafficking in persons. In her turn, Kafa lawyer, Joanna Isaac, said Lebanon’s failure to sign the agreement could increase the cost on Lebanese employers and the worker herself who often bears the high costs even before her arrival to Lebanon and during her first three months of stay. (Al Akhbar, December 8, 2018)

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