Gambian domestic workers in Lebanon have not escaped having their lives affected by Beirut’s massive ammonium nitrate explosion. A group of Gambian women took to the streets of the city on Thursday to protest remarks made by by Khalid Hammoud, Gambia’s honorary consul in the country. Hammoud, who is of Lebanese descent, said, “These girls are not telling the true situation here. They just want a free passage and a full waive of their penalties.” The women held placards outside Gambia’s consulate, knocking on the door and chanting: “We don’t need Mr Khalid.”
The Middle East Eye reports that the women had worked under the notorious ‘kafala’ system, which grants employers the power to control their movements and leaves them open to abuse. But, thousands of domestic workers had either been abandoned or forced to flee employers unable to pay them due to Lebanon’s economic crisis, which was further compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. Homeless and penniless, most of the women share apartments with up to 30 others at a time. Following Beirut’s ammonium nitrate explosion some of the women were injured by glass from shattered windows and collapsed walls. MME reports that they said hospitals had turned them away saying Lebanese nationals were a priority.
Khalid, said, “… they have no patience and keep coming up with stories, every time putting pressure on everyone.” He added, “Lebanon is currently in a mess after this horrific blast and these women should take it easy and not make life difficult for our government back home and us here.”
However, Lovette Jallow, an activist raising funds for the women to be repatriated said, “All Beirut is in turmoil and they are losing access to survival resources: food, housing, safety.”
Umm Muhammed Umar