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Plight of migrant workers in Lebanon: meager salary, difficulty in accessing dollars, longing for home

29-3-2021

The financial and economic crisis, combined with the corona pandemic, and the on-going abuse and ill-treatment, have together contributed to the hardships of migrant workers in Lebanon, leading to an acute shortage in foreign labor, namely in the number of migrant women domestic workers (MWDWs). Among the current difficulties MWDWs are facing, include a sharp decline in the value of salaries which were originally low, and have depreciated further with the soaring exchange rate of the dollar, losing nearly 80% of their value. Employers paid workers in Lebanese pounds at the lowest official exchange rate, LBP 1515 for the USD, which created a real problem for those workers, including Roxanne, Bengali national, who told Al Akhbar that she was preparing to return to her homeland, as she no longer can secure the USD 5 hourly pay she used to receive. Another worker, Baki, wept while grieving the deteriorating purchasing power as is the case in her home country. On the other hand, the Ethiopian domestic worker, Mimi, who returned home months ago, described to the newspaper’s reporter how she was forced to work without pay for months because her employer lacked hard currency, mentioning the manipulation and abuse she was subjected to. Other foreign workers, men and women, from Egypt and Bangladesh, complained about the trouble changing their salaries from Lebanese Lira to dollars to transfer to their families, decrying the deceit of employers who promised to pay them in hard currency and ended up receiving their salaries in lira. In light of this suffering, many migrant workers seek to leave Lebanon, as shown in the statistics published by Information International indicating a slump in the Arab and foreign workforce in the country corresponding to a shrinking number of entry permits (by 83%) during 2020. And according to Information International, the total decline rate in the number of workers was clearly associated with the nationality of labor. Workers from Ghana, for example, topped the list of departees, mostly from MWDWs, (the total number dropped from 11,539 entry passes in 2019 to 706 passes in 2020). Secondly, came the Bengali workers, particularly MWDWs and cleaning workers (dropped from 5,922 entry passes in 2019 to only 867 in 2020). Ethiopian nationals came in the third place, namely MWDWs, (from 16,848 entry passes in 2019 to 2,838 in 2020), and finally came the Filipino MWDWs (from around 5,165 entry passes in 2019 to only 706 in 2020). Apparently, there is slackness on part of the Lebanese authorities in addressing the plight of foreign labor, which was narrowed to collaborating with consulates during the pandemic to facilitate the return of workers. (https://bit.ly/3fn48Zr). (Al Akhbar, March 24, 2021)

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