Latest modern slavery fight updates -

Their Home is My Prison: Lebanon Fails Domestic Workers

  • Published on
    April 24, 2019
  • News Source Image
  • Category:
    Domestic Slavery
Hero Banner

A new report from Amnesty International, “Their home is my prison’: Exploitation of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon,” chronicles how the Lebanese government is failing to protect the rights of migrant domestic workers.

There are some 250,000 migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, most of them women, who are vulnerable to domestic servitude under the kafala system, which ties workers’ legal residency to their employers.

Take Action: Help End Domestic Slavery

In practice, this means domestic workers must get their employer’s permission to change jobs, a daunting scenario for workers being abused at the hands of their employer. Running away from an exploitative employer jeopardizes a domestic worker’s immigration status, putting them at risk of detention or deportation.

Amnesty International explains:

“It is outrageous that successive Lebanese governments have turned a blind eye to the catalogue of abuses that migrant domestic workers are being subjected to in their place of employment. Under kafala, these private homes have turned in many instances into little more than prisons for workers who are often treated with breath-taking contempt or outright cruelty,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

“Lebanon’s new minister of labour has committed publicly, as well as directly to Amnesty International, that he will take concrete measures to protect migrant domestic workers’ rights. The new government has a chance to distance itself from the past and prioritize ending the inherently abusive kafala system.”

Migrant domestic workers come from African and Asian countries including Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Kenya to live and work in private households in Lebanon.

All these workers are excluded from the Lebanese Labour Law and are governed instead by the kafala system, which ties the legal residency of the worker to the contractual relationship with the employer. The worker cannot change their job without the employer’s permission. This allows unscrupulous employers to coerce workers into accepting exploitative working conditions.

One domestic worker from the Philippines who declined to give her real name told Amnesty International, “I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone. If I opened the window and waved to other Filipinas, she [employer] would pull my hair and beat me. For three years she locked me in the house. I never got out.”

At least six of the women interviewed by Amnesty said the horrendous abuses caused them to consider  contemplating suicide — some even attempting it.

Amnesty International is now calling on Minister of Labour Camille Abou Sleiman to finally abolish the kafala system in Lebanon and extend rights protections for migrant domestic workers.


Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

stop icon A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This week

The "Migration Pact" that could mean the end of human rights in the E.U.

After nearly a decade of deliberation, the European Parliament recently passed a sweeping overhaul of the European Union’s asylum and migration rules with what is known as the “Migration Pact” which advocates say will lead to an increase in human rights abuses, including extreme exploitation. According to Al Jazeera, prominent E.U. figures like German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and E.U. Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson believe these reforms

| Wednesday April 10, 2024

Read more