NGOs demand that the affected migrant workers not be forgotten

The double explosion in the port of Beirut did not spare migrant workers. NGOs try to identify victims and disaster victims who have been “forgotten” by the authorities. They are asking the Lebanese government to help by speeding up their return.

Relentlessly, volunteers from the Anti-Racism Movement (AMR) in Lebanon have been rushing for three weeks to find the traces of migrant workers who are missing after the double explosion that destroyed entire parts of the Lebanese capital on August 4.

“Migrant workers and refugees are systematically dehumanized and marginalized in Lebanon, in life and in death,” the AMR condemned in a statement. The double explosion in the port of Beirut and its shock wave killed at least 181 people and left more than 6,500 injured, according to the latest report. However, several NGOs, including the AMR, pointed out the difficulties in identifying immigrant victims, which were not taken into account in the first official reports, “mainly exclusively people of non-Lebanese origin”.

“We counted 13 dead and four disappeared on their own. They are Filipino, Pakistani, Bengali, Bangladeshi, Indian and a Kenyan woman, no doubt a domestic worker or a diver in a restaurant. But the number of migrant workers killed in the explosion is without doubt much higher “, laments Farah Baba, AMR, along with France 24

Without any means to warn that a loved one will disappear

Rotten buildings, collapsed roofs and rubble … The quarantine area, located near the port of Beirut, where the explosion on August 4 redissolved, has been destroyed. It was home to many migrants. “It is a marginalized neighborhood, with insecure and insane housing, wedged between the port and the largest outdoor dump in Beirut. People were already living there in very poor conditions. Today, many have nowhere to go,” said Farah Baba. “Many migrants have lost their lives. personal belongings, not to mention the trauma they have suffered. “They no longer have a phone to warn their consulate, NGOs or the media that their relatives are disappearing”, the activist worries.

Against the situation, AMR and Amnesty International demand urgent help for these foreigners. “We have to help them find shelter, fix their house, pay the rent and get food and basic necessities.”

In the midst of an acute economic crisis affecting the entire Lebanese population, exacerbated by the explosion that left hundreds of thousands of homeless people in Beirut, aid organizations fear that migrant workers will be overlooked by the authorities.

NGOs call on the government to respond

For Diala Haidar, Amnesty International’s campaign in Lebanon, contacted by France 24, international aid should be used as a priority to help those populations who are “the least privileged in the country” and who “need immediate assistance”.

Distribution of basic necessities, night with the locals, crowdfunding to pay for return services for migrants to the street … “Our civil society is very active and we have associations that help, but solidarity should not be based on the government’s only shoulders, the government must respond, ”Reminds Diala Haidar.

On the street in front of their consulate

In front of the Kenyan consulate, dozens of former domestic workers have been camping since August 10 with a few children. Some of these women were injured in the explosion and lost their homes. The others were ruthlessly fired by their ex-bosses due to the economic crisis.

They do not have enough to pay for a return ticket and sleep there, hoping that the authorities in their country will be able to return them. “Despite several reminders to the government, nothing has changed … it has been months that we have asked the state to coordinate with the embassies of the countries of origin to speed up the repatriation process of domestic workers thrown on the street,” regrets Diala Haidar.

Lebanon is often accused of laxity in the exploitation of foreign domestic workers, who have long been condemned by human rights groups. In particular, they demand the abolition of the “kafala” system. It allows an employer to become the legal sponsor of its employee in Lebanon and the latter cannot resign without his permission. Nothing prevents the employer from confiscating his passport and leaving him completely under pardon.

At present, around 250,000 migrant workers are employed under this scheme, which deprives them of the provisions of labor law. Some are paid as little as $ 150 per month.