February 3, 2010

Ethiopian women: trafficked and trapped in Lebanon

by Marian
(Blogher)You have to search hard and then read between the lines to find anything about the tens of thousands of African women - mostly Ethiopian - currently trapped in Lebanon in the midst of the humanitarian disaster caused by Israel's overwhelming and prolonged military assault. Just to interject a piece of traditional wisdom about this deadly turn in the "Mideast (read Palestinian) conflict": Two wrongs don't make a right. What I find just as sad as whole-scale cross-border fighting is that even before these missile and rocket attacks began these women already were trapped in a largely ignored humanitarian disaster - in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East. What other African countries likely have citizens trapped in Lebanon's man-made tragedy? Somalia, Burundi, and probably even Nigeria. On Wed., 19 July from relative safety in a Beirut underground parking garage, BBC News showed the unidentified face of a lone displaced Ethiopian woman. She appeared to be 40ish and seemed to be wearing a blue maid's uniform. Obviously distressed, she stood against a cement pillar, covering her mouth with her hand. In that moment my impression was she seemed alone, even among the people - mostly Lebanese - also sheltering there and milling around her.

It was a few years ago while living in Nairobi, in east Africa, that I first learned that Ethiopian women were being trafficked to Lebanon, including for prostitution.

Blogher's own JaninSanFran's Happening Here blog has an entry on foreign workers trapped in Lebanon - "Foreign nationals under the Israeli gun". Jan's post includes the BBC's own chart showing numbers of other countries' nationals in Lebanon (attached below). Five of the six countries have populations traditionally, and not always accurately, identified as white or only slightly more vaguely "European". The same groups are euphemistically referred to as "westerners". The sole exception on the BBC list is the Philippines.

In spite of the obvious geography of the current crisis - i.e., the so-called Middle East adjoins Africa - for some reason there is far more awareness of the thousands of "guest workers" in Lebanon from Asia - Sri Lanka and Philippines in particular - yet next to nothing on persons from countries virtually next door to the west and south of Egypt. That would be Africa. In the midst of shelling and lack of electricity, food and water, and uneven evacuations by other countries of their nationals, virtually all these Africans and Asians remain stranded: unaided or somehow 'beyond the reach' of assistance by their own governments (or in Somalia's case transitional, interim government ).

Ethiopian writer Bathseba Belai corroborates the broader issues of trafficking as she writes about the "forgotten diaspora" of Ethiopian women labour migrants in the Middle East.

According to the U.S. State Department's 2005 Lebanon human rights report, from July 2004 the Lebanese government quit issuing visas to Ethiopian migrant workers. "... the SG [Lebanese police known as the "surete general"] stopped issuing visas to migrant workers from Ethiopia because Ethiopian authorities could not guarantee that adequate safeguards against fraud in the recruitment of these women for work in Lebanon were being taken."

State Department's Ethiopia human rights report for the same year goes into detail:
"... Young Ethiopian women were trafficked to Djibouti and the Middle East, particularly Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain for involuntary domestic labor. A small percentage were trafficked for sexual exploitation to Europe via Lebanon.
How many women equal "a small percentage"?

"... Private entities arranged for overseas work and, as a result, traffickers sent women to Middle Eastern countries--particularly Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates--as domestic or industrial workers. These women typically were trafficked through Djibouti, Yemen, and Syria. The chief of the investigation and detention center in Lebanon reported in October [2005] that 30 thousand Ethiopian women worked in Beirut, the vast majority of whom were trafficked. ... Approximately 50 percent of these women were not able to return legally to their home country. ...


Abeba said...

I am not Felasha or their supporter or ... But what is the "Role" of Israel here? I don't get it. Is this article trying to blame Israel...? for what ?
It is sad and terrible what is happening to Ethiopian refugees/immigrants there, but shouldn't they be responsible for getting into that life, may be get out, leave the horrible life once they see it ? Should they be complaining forever since we know things will never change in those Arab countries!? We may say they are trapped, but if you really want to leave and go back to Ethio, you can. I have some relatives who were duped into this situation and refused to be there and returned within weeks. So, when do we take the responsibility for our own actions? I don't think people get kidnapped and smuggled out to these countries. I have never heard that but may someone might enlighten us with the info.

Our people are dying (literally, specially our young women) in these countries and this info is all over Ethiopia (most people know how horrible life is in these Arab, Islam controlled countries, i.e. - Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain....etc) but they still go. Why ? I don't get it. May be someone can make me understand it. I don't mean going for a legitimate job or opportunity. But to work in horrible conditions you already know.

May God help the help less people in these countries. Because our gov't will not.

God bless,
Abeba from AA

Berhanu said...

የእግዚአብሔር ሰላምታ ለሁላችን ይድረስ

በተለይ የኛ ዝምታ የኛ ግድየለሽነት በጣም እያሳዘነኝ መጥቷል። ግድየለሽነት ከፈጣሪ ጠላትነት በምን ይለይ ይሆን?

ቤተክርስቲያናችን ወደ አረብ አገር ሄዳ ጥርሷንና ልቧን የማሳያው ጊዜ ደርሷል። እግዚአብሔር ወገኖቻችንን ወደ አረብ አገር እንዲሂዱ የሚያደርገው ያለምክንያት አይደለም። እህቶቻችን ሲሰቃዩ ማየቱ እጅግ በጣም ያሳዝነናል፡ ነገር ግን ነጻ ሊወጡና በጠላት ላይ ድሉን ሊቀዳጁ የሚችሉት ከጌታችን ባገኘነው እምነታችን ብቻ ስለሆነ፡ የሚመለከተን ሁሉ፡ በተለይ የቤተክርስቲያን መስተዳደር፡ ሰባኪዎችንና አባቶችን ወደ ዱባይ፡ ኳታር፡ ኢሜራትስና የመሳሰሉት አገሮች መላክ ይኖርብናል። ዘፋኞች ብቻ ወደዚያ ቢሄዱ ጊዚያዊ የሆነ ደስታ ነው የሚሰጧቸው። ይህን በተመለከተ ምን የታሰበ ነገር ይኖር ይሆን?

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ነጻ ፓትርያርክ ምርጫ ቢሆን ኖሮ ማንን ይመርጡ ነበር? እንበልና ሁሉም ነገር ሥርዓቱን ጠብቆ የተከናወነ የእጩዎች ምርጫ ቢሆን ኖሮ፣ አሁን የምናነሣቸው ጉድለቶች ባይኖሩ ኖሮ፣ 6ኛው ፓትርያርክ እንዲሆን የምትመርጡት ማንን ነበር? (ማሳሰቢያ፦ አሁን ያለው ክፍፍል እና የመንግሥት ተጽዕኖ ባይኖር ኖሮ ተብሎ የሚመለስ ጥያቄ ነው። የምን “ባይኖር ኖሮ ነው” የሚል አስተያየት ካለዎትም እናከብራለን።)