The Lebanese economy has not only been tough on its nationals. One recent attestation of this is the scene that took place on Wednesday night when several Ethiopian workers camped in front of their country’s consulate, crying for a place to sleep in.
The domestic workers had been staying in front of the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut after their employers kicked them out of their houses, due to being no longer able to pay them for their services.
And just like that, 35 migrants – and those are just the very few that were lucky to be caught in the spotlight – were stranded on the street.
“Lucky” because the Minister of Labor, Lamia Yammine Douaihy, heard their cries and secured them a temporary shelter to get them off the pavement.
Under the supervision of the Labor Ministry, and in coordination with the Tourism Ministry and the Ethiopian Consulate, the foreigners were transported by two tourist buses to a hotel in Beirut.
There, the 35 homeless Ethiopians were given 30 rooms to stay in temporarily.
Meanwhile, the ministry began to reach out to international agencies and the Ethiopian Consulate “to look for a long-term solution,” Labor Ministry spokesman Hussein Zalghout told AFP.
Commenting on the incident, the spokesman said the employers who are throwing house helpers out “will be punished by law and will be placed on a blacklist that prevents them from hiring foreign domestic workers again.”
On Thursday, the ministry declared that the Ethiopian workers were subjected to PCR tests and transported from the hotel to Caritas Lebanon’s custody.
The humanitarian organization announced its intent to look into the incident and take legal action against the migrants’ employers if it finds that violations were committed against any of the workers.
Right now, there are nearly 500,000 foreign domestic workers of various nationalities in Lebanon, an estimated 400,000 of whom are Ethiopian, and many of them are being paid in the depreciating Lebanese currency or not paid at all and dumped on the streets.
Unfortunately, for the Ethiopians at least, a return trip home will cost them more than 5 months’ worth of work because their country is charging them for the mandatory 14-day quarantine hotel stay.
According to Al-Akhbar, the total costs that an Ethiopian will have to pay to return to their country is $1,450, ticket and hotel fees included.
Needless to say, this is a sum that most of these workers can’t dream of having at this time due to their low wages, on one hand, and the fact that many of them transfer their money abroad on a monthly basis, on the other hand.
Correction: The current number of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon is estimated to be around 500,000 – (September 17th, 2020 at 12:47 PM): We initially wrote that the number was 250,000. Upon being presented with new information, we reflected this in the corrections.