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Suicide attempt highlights plight of Lebanese migrant workers

An Ethiopian domestic worker survived a four-story plunge, but her case once again highlights Lebanon’s poor track record in its treatment of migrant workers.
A migrant domestic worker holds up a placard during a parade in Beirut, to support the rights of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, ahead of May Day, April 29, 2012. The domestic worker industry in Lebanon is vast - foreign maids account for more than five percent of the population - and the sector is plagued by archaic labour laws, inhumane practices and dire wages. REUTERS/ Mohamed Azakir (LEBANON - Tags: CIVIL UNREST BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT POLITICS) - RTR31DDR

The video of an Ethiopian domestic worker attempting suicide on Nov. 10 by jumping off the fourth floor of her building in Beirut shocked the country. It once again brought Lebanon’s much-criticized sponsorship system — kafala, in Arabic, which controls the way domestic workers live — into the spotlight.

The young woman was identified as Barcotan Dupree on Ethiopian news websites. Subsequent interviews released on Ethiopian social media (translated for Al-Monitor by a domestic worker who prefers to remain anonymous) reveal that Dupree had been beaten by her sponsor on several occasions. We also discovered that she once escaped from her sponsor’s house, but returned because she had “nowhere else to stay.” She’s now being cared for at the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center.

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