Ethiopian migrant workers stranded in Lebanon

Mahlet Tadesse, a 20-year-old domestic worker is one of the hundreds of Ethiopian migrants forced to return home from Lebanon after being dumped by her employer.

She, along with 654 others, paid a hefty sum of $680 (Dh2497) to fly back to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, from Beirut, Lebanon, after camping out of the Ethiopian embassy. The cost is more than four times her monthly salary.

Many Ethiopian migrant workers, mostly young women, cannot cover the expense to fly home and now face the prospect of unemployment in a country beset by economic and political turmoil. But she was one of the lucky ones.

“I was in Lebanon for two years. I worked day in and day out and, on what was supposed to have been my off days, my employers would transport me to their friends and have me work with little break,” she told The National. “There was no extra pay and in the last months, I was promised payment and nothing was forthcoming until I was driven to the embassy and left there to mend for myself.”

Ethiopian migrant workers in Lebanon are wrapped in a system called kafala, which governs their entry, residence and work in Lebanon. The system demands that every migrant worker has a sponsor, who is also supposed to be one’s employer.

The system also gives employers a right to control the movement of the domestic worker, who cannot be hired by another employer without getting the consent of their current one or risk losing their migrant status and facing detention and deportation.

Many who lived in Lebanon under the system have returned to Ethiopia complaining of abuse and ill-treatment.

“We have temporarily suspended all operations to bring these destitute people to Ethiopia because of Covid-19. We plan to start the operation soon and we plan to prioritize those with children,” the Ethiopian director general for consular affairs Yohannes Shode told The National. Almaz Beyene, 23, from the northern Ethiopian city of Gonder, was the first to sign up after the ban was lifted, but the new system has done little to help her. She remains stranded in Beirut after she was also brought to the embassy last month with only a bag full of clothes.

“I have no money and I sleep with strangers on the street not knowing whenever I will ever go home. I feel vulnerable and I cry myself to sleep and it’s humiliating for me that I cannot even afford to pay for my flight ticket and that I live on the charity of others,” Ms Beyene said. […] CONTINUE READING