Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi Wednesday rejected the notion that all foreign housemaids in Lebanon are poorly treated, criticizing countries that have banned their women from working in Lebanon and accusing embassy workers of human trafficking.
“I asked to meet with ambassadors of countries who send their citizens to work in Lebanon, but I have still not received replies from some them,” Azzi said during a televised press conference.
The minister said that some women are finding illegal ways to enter Lebanon after some countries, including the Philippines and Ethiopia, banned their citizens from traveling to Lebanon over poor working conditions and mistreatment.
He accused employees from different embassies of being involved in trafficking by forging work titles of the women.
He said the traffickers give Lebanon “a bad reputation by making it seem like a prostitution or human trafficking hub."
"The Lebanese are respectful people, but those who disrespect their maids ... face consequences,” he said, adding that the ministry had taken numerous measures to protect the rights of domestic workers.
“The ministry has sent letters to the relevant governments informing them of the measures taken against people entering Lebanon illegally,” Azzi added.
He noted the existence of 523 maid agencies in Lebanon, down from 627 since an unspecified date, due to what he said was increased oversight by the government.
He warned that more offices will be shut if they are found to be operating without licenses.
Earlier Wednesday, General Security released a statement warning Lebanese citizens of using foreign workers for “illegal purposes,” and warned of measures against employers who exploit their workers.
The statements come nearly a week after a Filipina domestic worker beat her 37-year-old boss to death with a dumbbell in a Mount Lebanon town, reportedly because the employer, a woman, had mistreated her. The family of the woman has rejected allegations of mistreatment.
About 200,000 foreign domestic workers are employed in Lebanon under the much-criticized sponsorship system. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have called on Lebanese authorities to address the "high levels of abuse and deaths" of maids in the country.
In January, the ministry flatly rejected a proposal submitted by the National Federation of Labor Union calling for the creation of another union for migrant domestic workers, saying that it would not consider the formation of an “illegal” syndicate.
Last month, it announced that foreign laborers would be provided with smart ID cards starting early next year, noting that its primary purpose was to protect the Lebanese workforce.
The project introduces technological advances into the registration procedures foreign workers are subject to before they are granted a work permit.
The smart card contains all the personal information of its holder as well as the stipulations of their work permit. Foreign laborers will have to make their way to the Labor Ministry or to a local government office to be fingerprinted when the smart card comes into effect.
The biometric data on the card will allow the government to ascertain a laborer’s place of work and whether they were complying with their work permit.