Global: IDWF is deeply saddened and outraged by the recent detention of two Nepali domestic workers in Lebanon
IDWF Press Release
2016 Dec 14
The International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) is deeply saddened and outraged by the recent detention of two Nepali domestic workers in Lebanon - Sushila Rana known as Zogana Rana, and Roja Maya Limbu known as Rosie Limbaugh - without formal and clear explanation of the charges levelled against them.
Lebanon is one of the top ten emigration countries in the world (World Bank 2016). Emigrant remittances, amounting to USD 7.5 billion and accounting for nearly 16.2 percent of Lebanon's GDP (World Bank 2016), are critical for Lebanon’s economic survival.
Supporting this emigration and economic survival system since the early 1980s is an invisible workforce of domestic workers from Asia and Africa who take over emigrants’ routine family obligations by providing daily care to emigrants’ ageing mothers and fathers.
Nonetheless, migrant domestic workers remain excluded from national labour laws and their admission into, and stay in, Lebanon, are governed by the repressive Kafala system which ties a domestic workers’ visa and work permit to one employer. Kafala results in situations where employers have unchecked control over migrant workers, exposing the latter to greater risk of exploitation and abuse.
Likewise, the freedom of movement of domestic workers is restricted. Their access to the public sphere is proscribed by employers who withhold their passports and by the public’s xenophobic attitudes; migrant domestic workers are only allowed in restaurants when accompanied by their employer and they are prohibited from swimming or approaching the pool area in sea and mountain resorts.
Most importantly, their freedom of speech and association is curtailed and attempts at organizing and voicing their concerns are criminalized. Yet, in January 2015 a group of courageous migrant domestic workers, among them Sushila and Roja, founded their own organization, Lebanon’s Domestic Workers Union. This union, the first in the MENA region, has called for the abolition of the Kafala system by organizing labour day parades and bi-national seminars with trade unions in countries of origin and supported fellow migrant domestic workers in distress. The founding members of the domestic workers’ union are under immense scrutiny by the security apparatus. Last week, the general directorate of general security has detained Sushila and Roja. Sushila was deported on 10 December and Roja is still in detention.
Last year, Lebanese authorities denied Lebanon-born Suzanna Kumar, the daughter of a migrant couple who has been working in Lebanon since 2000 and her mother Renuka Irangani (founding member of the union) from residency renewal and later detained Renuka and Suzanna’s father, Jagdish Kumar.
|Sushila Rana (a.k.a. Zogana Rana) receiving a certificate in August 2013 attesting to her completion of a training programme for domestic workers in preparation for the founding of a domestic workers’ union.||Sushila Rana (a.k.a. Zogana Rana) and Roja Maya Limbu (a.k.a. Rosie Limbaugh) during the founding congress of the domestic workers’ union in Lebanon in January 2015.||Suzanna Kumar receiving the first prize in October 2013 at a drawing competition organized by Lebanon’s Domestic Workers Union in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Women’s association and ILO – Photo also features Frank Hageman from the ILO, the ambassador of Sri Lanka to Lebanon and Castro Abdallah, President of FENASOL.|
We strongly condemn this pattern of arrests which aims to weaken the union and intimidate its current and prospective members. “This is a serious violation of basic human rights and ILO’s core Conventions on the Right to Organize and on Freedom of Association”, said Myrtle Witbooi, President of the IDWF. We also call on the Government of Lebanon to observe and abide by Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which ensures the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention.
The IDWF strongly calls on the Government of Lebanon to immediately and unconditionally release Roja and allow her to exercise her rights as a worker, including the right to join an organization of her own choosing. It calls on all its affiliates and everyone in the IDWF community to mobilize support for Roja and uphold workers’ fundamental right to freedom of association.
- Please sign immediately the following statement jointly initiated by the IDWF, ITUC, Human Rights Watch, and other NGOs: https://www.facebook.com/ARMLeb/posts/1346878712010226
Story Type: News