On the 30th April, the Workers’ Day March was held, and hundreds of people, both Lebanese and migrants, peacefully walked the streets from Sodeco to Dalieh to support the promotion and protection of migrant workers’ rights in Lebanon. Amel contributed to the organisation of the march along with other organisations working with migrant workers and migrant domestic workers (MDWs), as well as with community members from Ethiopia, Philippines, Bangladesh, among others. Key messages involved the importance for Lebanon to sign the C189 convention, the need to stop state violence against domestic workers and to rethink the ‘kafala’ or sponsorship system that is currently in place in Lebanon.
Since 2011, Amel’s migrant domestic has been working to enhance the situation of MDWs and to provide support for victims of human trafficking in Lebanon, currently through a 6 pronged approach: service provision (health, legal, social and psychological support); empowerment activities (language classes, skill building, income generating skills); awareness raising (of the rights and duties of both employer and employee, as well as with school children, i.e. future employers of MDWs); advocacy (with all stakeholders); research (currently on the freelance) and enhancing links with countries of origins. Regarding the latter, Amel’s MDW team conducted field visits to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in 2016, in which new networks were established and a greater understanding of the challenges faced by migrants and potential migrants in their countries of origin was developed.
Sunday’s march was an opportunity for MDWs’ voices to be heard. Many MDWs who attended had successful employer-employee relationships, nevertheless, they felt the need to demand that all MDWs in Lebanon have their rights protected, and to speak up for those MDWs who were unable to attend. The march was also a moment to celebrate and having reached Dalieh, a party atmosphere started with music from Africa and Asia filling the streets.