Friday, June 11, 2010

Article in Daily Star-Lebanon: Ministry launches complaints office for migrant workers

June 2, 2010

BEIRUT: Labor Minister Butros Harb announced Tuesday the opening of a complaints office in his ministry along with issuing a guide to inform migrant workers about their rights and obligations.

“I am pleased to tell you that I launched my reform program that will target the administration along with initiating different projects,” the labor minister told reporters.

Harb made his announcement during a news conference he held at the headquarters of the Labor Ministry in the Beirut suburb of Shiyyah.

Among the attendants were representatives of states that have migrant workers in Lebanon along with civil society committees.

Harb disclosed that he launched two initiatives.

“The first one is related to reforming the administration and eradicating corruption along with a quicker processing of citizen’s formalities,” said Harb, as he vowed to support “principled” employees who rejected bribery.

Harb said the second initiative aimed at restoring the reputation of Lebanon at the international level as a state that respected the rights of migrant workers after some media outlets claimed the contrary.

But Harb explained that it was impossible for his ministry to accomplish its social goals and to “enhance the social protection network” of migrant workers if the state did not protect the rights of those workers regardless of their nationality or race.

“I decided today to address the situation in the administration which citizens complained about by opening a complaint office in the ministry that can be contacted via a hotline,” he said.

The minister said that applications to be filled by citizens with complaints would be distributed at all branches and sections of the Labor Ministry.

“They will be asked to file the applications if they encountered a misbehavior, a delay in their formalities or if they were asked to pay a bribe,” said Harb, adding that the form would be mailed to the complaints office.

Harb voiced readiness to receive “oral complaints” through the hotline as well.

He stressed that he would devote extra time every day to examine the forwarded complaints and refer them to the concerned judiciary.

Concerning the guide for migrant workers, Harb said it would be translated into 14 languages and distributed at all airports, seaports and border posts.

“The guide aims to introduce the migrant worker to their rights and obligations along with respecting agreements and international treaties signed by Lebanon,” said Harb.

While many domestic workers in Lebanon are treated with respect, others find themselves trapped in abusive circumstances. Many complain of having their passports confiscated, salaries withheld, or of psychological, sexual or verbal abuse.

“Our people are kind and they respect human rights, but the situation of domestic workers still lacks complementary measures” Harb added.

Also, Harb underlined his ministry’s keenness on protecting the Lebanese from any potential assault by their domestic workers.

“This will take place by checking migrant workers’ mental state, moral credentials and health,” said Harb.

In late April of 2010, an Egyptian national stabbed to death four members from the same family in the Iqleem al-Kharoub village of Ketermaya in Mount Lebanon. The man was later lynched by an angry crowd from the village. –The Daily Star

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