The Kafala system must be dropped once and for all. Read the full article [Here].
Elhanan is a 24-year-old Ethiopian woman with broad shoulders, short black hair, and a nest of wrinkles surrounding her brown eyes. She came to Lebanon five months ago to work as a maid. She was promised a monthly salary of $200 and the option to return to her native country if she disliked her working conditions. Yet after Elhanan arrived in Beirut, the man who owned the house she tended took her passport and, when his wife and children left the house, often raped her.
“I said, ‘No, mister,’” Elhanan (which is not her real name) told me in an office near a safe house in the suburbs of Beirut. “I always said, ‘No, mister.’ But then he would threaten to kill me.”
Thousands of foreign domestic workers in Lebanon are part of what is known in the Arab world as the Kafala system, a way that people from surrounding regions can emigrate to Arab states and work for higher wages than what they would earn in their homelands. Kafala guest workers are used in a variety of industries, notably construction and domestic labor. The conditions of laborers working in places like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have been reported on widely. In Lebanon, like other countries, the arrangement gives employers the power to take away workers’ passports, withhold their salaries, and keep them in what sometimes amounts to a kind of indentured servitude.