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Filipino maid commits suicide in Lebanon

Agence France-Presse

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The Philippine Embassy in Beirut. (JS Lacaya image)
BEIRUTLebanon — A Filipina domestic worker has committed suicide in Lebanon at a shelter run by her embassy, consular officials said Sunday, days after a rights group complained about accommodation at the shelter.

The embassy, in a statement posted on its Facebook page, said the unnamed “household service worker” arrived on Friday at the shelter and the next day “reportedly jumped from a room she was sharing” with two others.

She died of her injuries on Sunday, it said, adding that “details of the incident are currently being investigated”.

An estimated 250,000 domestic workers — mostly from Ethiopia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka — live in Lebanon, many in conditions condemned by rights groups.

Those conditions have worsened in recent months as Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades, as well as a coronavirus lockdown.

Some Lebanese families have started paying their home help in the depreciating local currency, while others are now unable to pay them at all, with increasing reports of domestic workers being evicted onto the streets.

A sponsorship system known as “kafala” excludes maids, nannies and carers from Lebanon’s labor law, and leaves them at the mercy of their employers, who pay wages as low as $150 a month.

The death of the Filipina domestic worker comes after a visit to the embassy shelter by a delegation from Lebanon’s National Human Rights Commission.

On Monday the commission, in a letter sent to the embassy and posted on Facebook, criticized conditions at the shelter.

“The occupancy exceeds the official capacity,” it said.

“Respect the minimum requirements for daily outdoor excercise” and “make available appropriate psychological support to all women and staff,” the rights group added.

It also called on Lebanese authorities to “ensure that migrant domestic workers are protected from exploitative working conditions during the lockdown”.

A video posted by the embassy on its Facebook page Monday said the shelter was currently home to 26 people who receive “all meals and necessities” free of charge.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement:

It is with deep sadness that the Department of Foreign Affairs announces that the Filipina household service worker who was taken in by the Philippine Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, as ward at the POLO shelter on 22 May 2020 and reportedly jumped from a room she was sharing with two other OFWs in the morning of 23 May 2020 has passed away today.

The Embassy was able to speak to the Filipina’s eldest sister in the Philippines as well as her cousin in Lebanon to convey its condolences. It also gave assurances in extending assistance on the possibility of bringing her remains back to the Philippines. As of the moment, Beirut is still under lockdown and international commercial flights in Lebanon are yet to resume.

As details on the incident are currently being investigated, the Embassy has ensured the safety of the rest of the female wards in the shelter and will provide them counseling, as needed.

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