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Cablegate: Lebanon: Charge Visits Safe House for Trafficking

VZCZCXYZ2848
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLB #0340/01 0651549
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051549Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1207
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA PRIORITY 0132
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO PRIORITY 0108
RUEHML/AMEMBASSY MANILA PRIORITY 0136
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2024
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2288
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHMFISS/USCENTCOM SPECIAL HANDLING MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS BEIRUT 000340

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/GAVITO
DEPT PASS TO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
DEPT FOR NEA/ELA, DRL, G/TIP MARK LAGON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB KCRM PHUM SMIG SOCI CE CF ET LE MA NP
RP
SUBJECT: LEBANON: CHARGE VISITS SAFE HOUSE FOR TRAFFICKING
VICTIMS

REF: BEIRUT 151

SUMMARY
--------

1. (U) On March 4, the Charge visited the G/TIP-funded Safe
House operated by Caritas in partnership with the
International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC). The
residents, all women, told stories of abuse and exploitation,
while at the same time displaying the strength and courage to
leave their abusive situations and seek help. Caritas has
done an extremely effective job of providing care for the
women while at the same time seeking justice and resolutions
to their detrimental situations by working with cooperative
GOL officials. End Summary.

2. (U) Charge d'Affaires a.i. Sison met the President of
Caritas Lebanon's Board of Directors for the Safe House,
Kamal Sioufi, and Caritas's Safe House Director, Najla Tabet
Chahda, at the G/TIP funded Safe House in Beirut. Emboffs,
Caritas staff, and twenty trafficking victims were also
present for the visit. Despite the reasons for the women's
presence in the Safe House, their mood was upbeat and
hopeful. Many were excited to meet and talk to the Charge,
some one-on-one. G/TIP has provided more than $700,000 over
three years to support the Safe House's operations. The
women were from the Philippines, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Nepal,
Madagascar, and Congo.

G/TIP SAFE HOUSE ONLY ONE OF
ITS KIND IN THE REGION
---------------------------

3. (U) The Charge began the visit by talking with the Safe
House's residents in a large group setting. The women
described their stories and talked about the mistreatment
they faced at the hands of their individual employers (Note:
The overwhelming majority of the women worked as household
employees. End Note.) After the group meeting the Charge
toured the facility, which has the ability to comfortably
house 12 women at any given time, but can accommodate twice
this amount in an emergency. Usually, the women spend their
days working with Caritas to advance their individual legal
cases, and to take care of their shared living quarters.
They also make handbags and scarves, which Caritas sells.
The women use the profits to help buy extra necessities for
day-to-day living.

4. (U) After the tour the Charge watched a presentation
about the Safe House. The G/TIP-funded Safe House has
accommodated 206 victims of trafficking since its launch in
2005. The nationalities of the women include women primarily
from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Ethiopia; but also,
women from Madagascar, Congo and Nepal. Of the twenty that
were present on this March 4 visit, almost half were
Ethiopian.

5. (U) The Safe House provides victims with protection and
assistance, trauma counseling, legal aid, social counseling,
and support for repatriation. In addition to the project's
external caseworkers and lawyers, there is a social worker
permanently on staff at the Safe House. In 2007, the Safe
House received 98 victims of trafficking and assisted 90
women with their subsequent legal cases. Most foreign
household employees earn between $100 and $300 dollars a
month, depending on the nationality of the worker (Note: A
Filipina maid is paid an average of $150-$300 a month, while
a Sri Lankan or Ethiopian employee generally receives around
$100-$150 a month. End Note.)

WOMEN TELL STORIES OF ABUSE
AND EXPLOITATION
---------------------------

6. (U) The Charge later sat down with the newest arrival to
the Safe House, "Mary" (not her real name), for a one-on-one
conversation. Mary left her two children, aged 9 and 4, to

come to Lebanon to work as a household employee to support
her struggling family back in the Philippines. Mary worked
as a maid in the household of a Lebanese employer, who began
beating her soon after her arrival. Mary remained in this
abusive situation for over a year and a half. Finally, after
a brutal beating she received for leaving her employer's
house without permission, she left and sought refuge in the
Safe House after hearing about it from a friend. The local
employment agency which helped bring Mary to Lebanon did
little to remove her from her situation, even after she
complained about the abuse.

7. (U) Mary's former employer still has her passport and has
told Caritas officials that he is going to destroy it to deny
Mary the ability to leave Lebanon and return home. Caritas
is planning to go public with this story if the Lebanese
employer does not return Mary's passport and also pay for
Mary's return to the Philippines. Chahda said that often
Caritas, rather than the employer, is left with the bill to
pay for the women's airline ticket back home. Caritas is
trying to enact changes in the Lebanese penal code that would
force the abusive employer or the negligent employment
agencies either in Lebanon or the woman's host country, to
pay for the ticket home, Chahda added.

8. (U) A Sri Lankan woman, who had been a resident at the
Safe House for over five months, said the family she worked
for withheld her wages for a period of seven years. Her only
reason for staying in the house was because of her love and
affection for the children whom she had raised for the past
seven years before finally leaving. Three women from the
Philippines who thought they were coming to Lebanon to work
in a household instead found themselves working long hours in
a resort. Their passports were taken and they were beaten
and imprisoned in a small room when off duty.

GOL MAKING A GOOD
EFFORT TO STOP TIP
------------------

9. (U) The GOL cooperates with Caritas to resolve TIP cases
and does not attempt to hinder or interfere to any great
extent in investigations. Chahda noted that General Security
(the lead GOL agency in charge of TIP cases) now has a black
list of abusive employers, which prevent people from this
list from hiring any future foreign household employees.
However, Chahda noted that more should be done to go after
the agencies, in Lebanon and abroad, which brings the women
to Lebanon without properly checking to ensure their safety.

COMMENT
-------

10. (U) Caritas/ICMC has submitted a $439,682 project
proposal to keep the Safe House operating and to conduct
training for government personnel. Post has submitted a
cable recommending continued support for this program (Reftel
A) and urges approval. End Comment.
SISON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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