Domestic work

Survivor of kafala-linked abuse in Lebanon returns home to Nigeria

Domestic SlaverySurvivor Stories

A Nigerian migrant worker who was arrested and accused of attempted murder after surviving domestic abuse in Lebanon has finally arrived home.

Ariwolo Olamide Temitope, 31, escaped her employers’ home in April after documenting physical abuse in a video that garnered attention in both Nigeria and Lebanon.

Her employers were blacklisted by the Lebanese labor ministry, banning them from hiring domestic workers in the future, and Temitope’s flight home was arranged by Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.

But moments before boarding her flight home to Abuja in May, Temitope was detained.

It wasn’t until three weeks later that she found out she stood accused of theft and attempted murder of her employer.

Al Jazeera reports:

“I could not believe it,” she said. “After I escaped their home I had filed a police report about the abuse. I think they did this to try and get me into trouble instead.”

Diab had told Al Jazeera in April that Temitope previously pulled a knife on her. Temitope denied these allegations. “If I had pulled a knife on her before, would she really have kept me at the house?” 

In General Security detention, Temitope said she felt “completely alone. I thought that my employers would have their way because they have money and I don’t.” 

She said she contemplated suicide, but instead decided to put her faith in God. 

But together with a Lebanese NGO, Nigerian authorities successfully worked to secure Temitope’s release.

Nigeria’s House Committee on the Diaspora, which works to protect citizens abroad, pressured the Nigerian government to liaise with Lebanese authorities on the issue.

Mohanna Ishak, a women’s rights lawyer representing Temitope submitted a request for her release in Beirut and the presiding judge eventually ruled in her favor.

As a result, Temitope was finally released last Wednesday and returned home on Saturday, on a flight organized by the Nigerian embassy.

Temitope advised other women like her to avoid working in Lebanon.

“I suffered so much. I believe now that it’s better for us to stay in our country and manage with what we have, even if it is difficult,” she said.  

“To leave Lebanon is to be happy, very, very happy. I can’t tell you how happy I am.”

Foreign domestic workers in Lebanon are hired under the kafala system, a sponsorship scheme that has been likened to modern-day slavery which effectively ties workers to their employer and facilitates widespread abuse.

Freedom United has gathered over 85,000 signatures calling on governments to ratify the Domestic Workers Convention (C189), a global standard that requires states to protect domestic workers from the type of abuse Temitope endured.

Stand with Temitope and add your name today.

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