Diego Ibarra Sanchez

Photographer; Educator; Video journalist
Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Nationality: Spanish
Biography: www.diegoibarra.com Diego Ibarra Sánchez is a documentary photographer based in Lebanon contributing for THE NEW YORK TIMES, NZZ, Revista 5W, UNHCR, and UNICEF, among others. Diego assumes a very critical stance regarding the use of images... read on
Public Story
Copyright Diego Ibarra 2022
Updated Jun 2020
Location Beirut, Lebanon
"Under Kafala Law: Domestic workers in Lebanon" is a project to give an insight into the lives of migrant workers in Lebanon and to explore their experiences of abuse, exploitation, and dignity bringing humanity back into the untold story of thousands of workers living and suffering under The Kafala System in Lebanon.
Lebanon is home to over 250,000 migrant domestic workers who come from African and Asian countries and work in private households. Migrant domestic workers in Lebanon are trapped in a web woven by the kafala system, an inherently abusive migration sponsorship system, which increases their risk of suffering labor exploitation, forced labor, and trafficking and leaves them with little prospect of obtaining redress.

All migrant domestic workers are excluded from the Lebanese Labor Law and are governed instead by the KAFALA SYSTEM which ties the legal residency of the worker to the contractual relationship with the employer. If this employment relationship ends, even in cases of abuse, the worker loses regular migration status. Moreover, the worker cannot change their employer without the latter’s permission and they become illegal the moment they decide they don't want to work under these conditions anymore.

Migrant domestic workers are trapped in Lebanon, left to fend for themselves against abuse and poverty.  They frequently fail to receive a minimum wage, sick days or holidays, and low wages, non-payment of wages, long workdays, forced confinement, intimidation, and harassment are frequently reported. Cases of abuses are reported regularly, with workers often unable to obtain their rights or even flee because all their money and travel documents are held by their employers.

On top of the lack of legal protections, domestic workers are subject to a wide range of illegal abuses - including the confiscation of passports, withholding of wages, and physical violence - yet there are many barriers to legal recourse.  The lack of protection for migrant domestic workers in Lebanon leaves the door open to abuse. Two domestic workers are estimated to die in Lebanon each week, many in suicides or botched escape attempts. This project has been published on:

Thousands of women are trapped in Lebanon. They risk jail time to leave
They moved to Lebanon to become domestic workers and send money home to their families. Now they’ve become “hostages” of the country’s economic crisis.

Hausmädchen in arabischen Ländern: dem Dienstherr ausgeliefert
Sie sind hilflos ihrem Dienstherr ausgeliefert. Um einem skrupellosen Arbeitgeber zu entkommen, bleibt oft nur die Wahl zwischen Selbstmord oder Flucht in die ebenso schutzlose Illegalität.

La revuelta contra la 'madame' libanesa
De trabajadora doméstica maltratada a activista en Líbano


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