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Migrant domestic workers in Lebanon deported for having children - rights group

by Heba Kanso | @hebakanso | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 25 April 2017 17:33 GMT

Dozens of migrant domestic workers who have given birth in Lebanon are being detained, deported and denied residency renewals, a rights group says.

By Heba Kanso

BEIRUT, April 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Dozens of migrant domestic workers who have given birth in Lebanon are being detained, deported and denied residency renewals, a human rights charity said on Tuesday.

Lebanon has deported at least 21 domestic workers with children, many of them Sri Lankan, since the summer of 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

The deportation figures come from Insan, a local human rights organisation that said none of the deported women had violated their visas by, for example, working with multiple employers.

"There is no rule that bans domestic workers from having children in Lebanon," Roula Hamati, research and advocacy officer at Insan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Some of the women, who also include Ethiopians and Filipinos, are detained for two to three weeks before being deported, according to Hamati. In many cases both parents are migrant workers in Lebanon.

The General Directorate of General Security, Lebanon's agency in charge of immigration, was not immediately available for comment.

In a statement to HRW on April 19, the agency said it "did not deport or send away any domestic worker with a child that she wanted to bring with her."

Some women told HRW by phone the deportations had interrupted their ability to work and their children's schooling.

"I worked for people [in Lebanon] all my life, for 32 years. We worked, worked, me and my husband, to put our children through school, to pay money to educate them there, and they treat us like that?" Kumaria, whose name was changed by HRW for her protection, told the organisation.

HRW said Kumari was detained in 2016 and then deported to Sri Lanka with her daughter who was 14 at the time, while her husband stayed in Lebanon for work.

The country hosts more than 200,000 migrant domestic workers, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

They are employed under the "Kafala" sponsorship system, which binds them to a single employer and leaves them vulnerable to abuse.

HRW called for the General Security to make public its position on migrant workers who have children in the country.

More than 80 percent of the world's 53 million domestic workers are women, according to the ILO. Often unregistered and unprotected by labour laws, they are among the most vulnerable groups of workers in the world.

(Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso, Editing by Astrid Zweynert. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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