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Beirut explosion leaves migrant domestic workers without income or way home

Beirut, LebanonMigrant domestic workers protested outside the Kenyan Consulate in the Lebanese capital on Monday and Tuesday after being expelled by their employers without documents and no way to return home.

On the top of an economic crisis that has suffocated the income of one of the most vulnerable sectors of Lebanese society, the massive blast that rocked Beirut on August 4 has brought with it a new obstacle for migrant workers. According to Amnesty International, Lebanon is home to approximately 250,000 migrant domestic workers, mostly women, who come from African and Asian countries.

"These women are among the most marginalised people in society, and are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis exacerbated by COVID-19," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's MENA Regional Director in a press release.

During the pandemic, some of these women have been abandoned in front of the Ethiopian Consulate after their employers were not able to provide their regular income. Some of them have even been denied their own passports, which remain in the hands of their former bosses.

Physical abuse has also increased during the lockdown, according to Al Jazeera which documented the case of 23-year-old Faustina Tay who was found dead after she contacted an activist group for domestic abuse in March. The port explosion has now pushed many migrant domestic workers into homelessness.

"Even if they get enough money to buy a ticket back home, they will not be allowed to leave the country as the Lebanese government refuses to let them go," activist Dara Foi Elle told Reuters. "The Nigerian Embassy is trying to get laissez-passer papers to let them go, but we need help from the Lebanese government."

World powers promised not to fail the Lebanese people as the capital, Beirut, recovers from the blast that killed 158 people and destroyed swathes of the city last Tuesday. But foreign countries demanded transparency over how the aid is used, wary of writing blank checks to a government viewed by its own people as deeply corrupt. Some are concerned about the influence of Iran through the Shi'ite group Hezbollah.

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