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Lebanon: Nigerian worker put up for sale on Facebook refuses to be repatriated

A foreign domestic worker cleans window blinds in Beirut, Lebanon, May 21, 2020. [REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir]
A foreign domestic worker cleans window blinds in Beirut, Lebanon, May 21, 2020. [REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir]

A Nigerian woman working in Lebanon who was put up for sale on Facebook in April has refused to be repatriated and has instead negotiated a contract with another employer, a press release from the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission claims.

Peace Busari was put on sale on a "Buy & Sell" Facebook page for $1,000 in late April. The post, which included a copy of the woman's passport, read: "Domestic work of African citizenship (Nigerian) for sale with a new residency and full legal papers… she's 30-year old, active and very clean."

According to local media, the post's author, a user known online as "Wael Jerro", was later arrested by Lebanese security forces and an investigation into the incident was launched.

The case has sparked outrage in Nigeria, with high profile officials, notably Dame Julie Okah-Donli, the Director-General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, calling for the victim to be repatriated immediately.

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In recent weeks, 69 of 79 Nigerians who were allegedly abused by their Lebanese employers were repatriated. Ten remain in Lebanon with "cases to answer" and are expected to be repatriated when the coronavirus lockdown is lifted. It is unclear if Ariwolo Olamide Temitope, who was allegedly abused by her employer but later denied repatriation after her boss claimed that he "[owned] her", was one of the returnees.

The repatriations come as videos have surfaced on social media showing dozens of Ethiopian migrant workers being transported to shelters after they were abandoned by their employers outside their embassy. According to Lebanon's Labour Ministry, 35 Ethiopians, primarily women, were transported to nearby shelters over the past few days. Most of the 35 were abandoned by their employers, often without passports and owed months of pay, or are undocumented migrants who were unable to find work and are now seeking repatriation, reported Middle East Eye.

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In recent months, several embassies in Lebanon have been overrun with migrant workers desperate to return home after the country's debilitating economic crisis left many employers unable to pay wages in dollars, or cover salaries at all. The coronavirus pandemic has compounded the situation, trapping workers indoors in frequently abusive environments.

Lebanon, which hosts approximately 250,000 migrant domestic workers, uses the kafala system, a form of migration sponsorship which ties the legal residency of workers to their employment.

The system has been condemned frequently by human rights groups and activists as abusive. It was also called "modern day slavery" by former Lebanese Labour Minister Camille Abousleiman. Activists have called for the system to be abolished, but despite horror stories and an estimated two deaths of workers per week – often suicide – the practice is still prevalent in Lebanon.

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