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After Faustina Tay’s death, time is up for the kafala system in Lebanon

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Between 3 and 4am on 14 March, 23-year-old Ghanaian Faustina Tay’s body was found in a car park under her employer’s fourth-storey home in Beirut’s southern suburbs. Fewer than 24 hours earlier, Tay was sending messages to an activist group for domestic workers under the kafala system, about the abuse she was suffering at the hands of her Lebanese employers. Tay sent 40 minutes of voice messages documenting the abuse, yet despite plausible allegations of maltreatment, the Lebanese police are set to investigate her death as a suicide.

Tay’s story is by no means unique, but part of a concerted effort by authorities to sweep the deaths of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon under the kafala system under the carpet. According to the country’s intelligence agency, two domestic workers die each week, while a Human Rights Watch report in 2010 found that Lebanon’s judiciary consistently fails to hold employers accountable, and security agencies do not “adequately investigate claims of violence or abuse.” Instead, most of these deaths are caused by falls from high buildings during botched escape attempts but are ruled as suicides.

In reality, Faustina Tay is the latest victim of the kafala system, an outdated migration sponsorship scheme which ties the legal status of workers to their employment. Amnesty International has termed the system “inherently abusive,” because if the employer choses to terminate the contract, even in cases of abuse, the visa sponsorship is immediately revoked,........

© Middle East Monitor