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Weekly News Report: October 18-24, 2021

Demonstrators gathering in solidarity in front of the Baabda justice palace. Photo from Annahar

Articles and views shared in the Weekly News Report do not necessarily represent ARM’s views. Information in these articles has not been fact-checked by ARM and may contain some errors. ARM is simply compiling all news relevant to migrant communities to inform our advocacy efforts and to facilitate the work of organizations who cater to migrant communities.

UNRWA Sues Protestors Demonstrating against Forced Evictions in Nahr el Bared [here]

UNRWA filed a lawsuit against unknown individuals, on charges of damaging their properties and vehicles during a protest on the 18th of September. ِAn organizer from the Palestinian movement confirmed that Halba police station called about 22 people for investigation, most of which are women.

The lawsuit was later retracted following activists' demands to UNRWA.

The demonstrators were protesting the evictions of over 50 families from their houses without providing them with alternative housing. The UNRWA had opened the compound in 2007 as temporary housing following the war in Nahr el Bared, while awaiting the reconstruction of their houses. The reconstruction was never completed.

Eco-Movement Denies Claims that Syrian Refugees are Settling into Bisri Valley [here]

A document issued last July by the General Security, which informs the Public Prosecution of Cassation that “Syrians were erecting agricultural rooms in the Bisri Dam area resurfaced this week. The Lebanese Eco Movement denied the claims, confirming that the land owners have returned to their land, and employed Syrian families to support them with agricultural work. 

This is yet another attempt to use Syrian refugees as a fear mongering political pressure card in controversial issues. 

FENASOL Raises the Issue of Migrant Workers in Lebanon in Spain [here]

The National Federation of Employees’ and Workers’ Union in Lebanon (FENASOL) participated in the 12th Confederal Congress of the Workers' Commissions (CCOO) of Spain. The head of FENASOL, Castro Abdalla, presented a report detailing the economic crisis in Lebanon, and the ensuing poverty and unemployment. The report also raised the issue of migrant workers in Lebanon who have become without work or any health care, and their inability to return to their countries after being abandoned by Lebanese sponsors and employers. 

FENASOL Speaks against Kafala and Promises to Support Domestic Workers [here]

FENASOL also held a meeting in which they raised concerns about the situation of migrant workers under the Kafala system in Lebanon, calling out the slavery like conditions faced by migrant workers. FENASOL confirmed they will follow up on the living and social conditions of the workers in collaboration with the ILO and other humanitarian organizations. 

Ethiopian Woman Dead on Zahrani Highway [here]

An Ethiopian woman was found dead on Zahrani Highway. Security sources denied the preliminary news that the body was abused and dumped, and confirmed that it was a fatal auto-pedestrian crash. The body was allegedly hit by several cars due to the darkness. More investigations are being conducted. 

Migrant Worker Dies while Battling to Get Treatment in Lebanon and Go Back Home [here]

Young Sierra Leonean Rugiato died after months of battling to get treatment in Lebanon and to go back home. She would have turned 26 in December. 

Fundraisers were launched last year to support part of the expenses of her treatment.

Minister of Labor Reiterates Strictness in Recruiting Foreign Workers [here]

The new minister of labor Mustafa Bayram confirmed in a statement to “Sawt Kel Lebnen” that there will be strict measures in recruiting new foreign workers, favoring the Lebanese workers and “protecting them”. The statement aligns with the discourse of the previous ministers Lamia Yammine and Camille Abou Sleiman regarding foreign labor.

Major Decline in Foreign Labor in Lebanon[here]

Information International noted a 36.4% decline in the number of documented migrant workers in Lebanon from 2019 to 2021. According to the Ministry of Labor and General Security, the total number of documented workers in 2020 amounted to 157,105 at the end of 2020, vs 247,088 in 2019. However, 18,214 new permits were given during the first 9 months of 2021, compared to 11,476 in 2020, and 43,825 in 2019, suggesting that there has been a higher flow of foreign workers in 2021 compared to 2020.

CMC Discriminates against Foreign Patients [here]

The Clemenceau Medical Center (CMC), including its emergency department, is requiring foreign patients to pay in U.S. dollars cash for medical services. The decision includes Syrian and Palestinian residents, along with  residents with a Lebanese mother and a foreign father. 

For the First Time, Lebanese Court Handles Criminal Case of a Migrant Domestic Worker Suing Sponsors for Slavery [here]

On Tuesday the 19th of October, the judiciary in Lebanon dealt for the first time with a criminal case related to slavery and slave trade, filed by a migrant domestic worker against her sponsor. 

According to Legal Action Worldwide, the organization supporting her with legal representation, Meserat Hailu was locked in her employer’s house for 8 years, forced to work over 15 hours a day, cut off from her family, faced physical and verbal abuse, and was deprived of her salary for several months. The sponsor had also confiscated her passport. 

The defendants did not attend the court hearing, and the hearings were rescheduled till the 10th of February. The court might issue an arrest warrant in case they fail to appear in court again. 

The case is seen as strategic litigation as for the first time, the case is not limited to the unpaid wages but involves other legal aspects regarding slavery, slave trade, forced labor, abuse and racism. 

Demonstrators also gathered in front of the Baabda justice palace to protest her case. 

More on the case [here] and [here] and [here]