The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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March 10, 2015

The Daily Star - Over 100 rights groups call for domestic workers union in Lebanon, March 10, 2015

Local and international NGO’s and human rights watchdogs called on the Lebanese authorities Tuesday to allow the creation of a union for migrant domestic workers to help protect them from abuses.

In a statement released by Human Rights Watch, more than 100 NGOs, including the National Federation of Labor Unions and the International Trade Union Federation, blasted Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi for rejecting a proposal to set up a union presented to him in late December.

The signatories to the petition said Lebanese authorities should recognize a union for domestic workers, who are excluded from the protection of the Lebanese labor code.

“Instead of slamming the union proposal, Minister Azzi should push forward on longstanding promises to protect the rights of domestic workers and bring abusers of migrant domestic workers to justice,” a spokesperson for the organizations said.

“These workers, some of Lebanon’s most vulnerable, urgently need a protective structure so that they can advocate for change and have productive dialogue with the government and employers.”

In late December, six Lebanese workers submitted a request to the Labor Ministry to form such a union, with support of the International Labour Organization, the International Trade Union Federation (ITUC), and the Federation of Trade Unions of Workers and Employees (FENASOL) in Lebanon.

But Azzi discarded the domestic workers’ right to form a union as “illegal”, saying the workers’ rights would be protected by a bill he is introducing to Cabinet. The latter has yet to ratify the bill.

According to the ILO, Lebanon is home to more than 250,000 female migrant domestic workers, the majority of whom come from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Bangladesh to work as housemaids.

Rights groups have complained that employers often withhold pay, lock workers in their homes and confiscate their passports, among other abuses.

The harsh living conditions have pushed some migrant workers to commit suicide. Others have died or been seriously injured while trying to escape their employers’ homes. In 2008, Human Rights Watch recorded one migrant domestic worker death per week from unnatural causes, including suicide.

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