Improving the lives of Migrant Workers in Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon

This campaign was implemented in Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, and it ran from 2011-2013.

Project Background 

In Jordan, according to the Ministry of Labor’s statistics, there are about 70,000 foreign domestic workers in the country. Assuming that each one of these workers is working for one family, one could then conclude that 7% (1 in 14) of families in Jordan have a foreign live-in domestic worker. In most Arab states, labor laws generally do not cover female domestic workers because they are not considered employees. They work in households, which are not considered workplaces, and they work for private persons, who are not considered employers. In addition, private homes are not usually supervised by labor inspectors since labor inspectors are forbidden from visiting private households. The employment relationship between a domestic worker and the head of a household is not addressed in national legislation in any Arab country, denying them the status of “real workers” entitled to labor protection. Domestic workers are also excluded from labor protection under any other national law.

Due to a lack of legislative protection and persistent negative attitudes from society, domestic migrant workers have been subjected to different forms of abuse. The abuse experienced by migrant workers includes receiving little pay, working long hours, having their lives tightly regulated by their employers, and being victims of emotional and physical violence. In light of the conditions plaguing migrant domestic workers in Jordan and throughout the Arab world, JWU alongside its partners, implemented this regional campaign to combat the mistreatment of migrant workers and to help them gain back their dignity.   


Project Objectives

The overall goals of this project were to combat the violation of domestic workers, protect them through the establishment of new programs, provide them with legal and social aid, include them in the labor laws and change pre-existing attitudes towards them. 

The specific objectives of this project were as follows:

1)   Build strong coalitions that believe strongly in migrant workers rights.

2)   Strengthen migrant worker and anti-trafficking legislation and encourage law enforcement.

3)   Protect women who are facing all kinds of violence.

4)  Strengthen and unify the perspectives and understanding toward domestic workers in the region.


Project Activities

The project built a strong network of human rights organizations, employers, placement agencies and police officers in the three countries as a pilot project in the region in order to engage all stakeholders against the severe violations committed against migrant workers. The collaboration with NGOs and key stakeholders ensured a holistic response to migrant worker women who are at risk of violence. This included providing access to services needed for prevention, recovery, protection and repatriation initiatives. Activities engaged all pertinent stakeholders including government agencies, international organizations, NGOs, police, and embassies. 

The Jordanian Women’s Union (JWU) led the project in Jordan, the Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance (CEWLA) in Egypt, and the Lebanese Women’s Committee in Lebanon. This project piloted the development of a network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as relevant governmental departments in Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. The project specialized in achieving migrant worker rights in particular and domestic workers in general which work cooperatively at national and regional levels to form a regional response to eliminate trafficking, violence and exploitation against migrant women.  The project’s activities included prevention for at-risk groups of migrant workers as well as protection, recovery and repatriation for victims. There were also campaigns to criminalize abuses against domestic workers in the target countries.

An essential part of this project was to ensure a change in legislation, both nationally and regionally, in order to provide protection to migrant workers. In order to achieve this, legal committees were established within the three countries to draft, propose and lobby for a law and procedures which benefits migrant domestic workers in all three of the countries. Additionally, governments were pressured to ratify and implement the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Finally, the need to create legal infrastructure to prosecute perpetrators was addressed.

Alongside addressing much needed improvements within legislation, the need to protect women currently being threatened by violence was an immediate concern. Therefore, the creation and implementation of fully functioning recovery services were established, with the employment of 150 well-qualified psychosocial and legal experts spread throughout the three countries. Also in order to prevent future abuses from occurring, it was important for migrant domestic workers to be informed of their rights and be given important information about the country they are living in including the numbers for NGOs, shelters and police support units.

Finally, negative, pre-existing attitudes towards migrant domestic workers were dealt with as an underlying issue to the abuse of these workers. Different sectors of society share this same attitude, including employers of migrant workers, police, judges and prosecutors. Through the provision of workshops which present information on migrant workers and the situations they face, this attitude was addressed.

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