Filipina maid commits suicide in Lebanon in embassy shelter

Conditions for workers have worsened amid coronavirus pandemic and Lebanese economic crisis

A maid from the Philippines wears a mask to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus as she walks in front of a newspaper kiosk in central Beirut's commercial Hamra Street, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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A Filipina domestic worker has committed suicide in Lebanon at a shelter run by her embassy, days after a rights group complained about accommodation there.

The embassy said on its Facebook page that the unidentified "household service worker" arrived on Friday at the shelter and the next day "reportedly jumped from a room she was sharing" with two others.

It said she died of her injuries on Sunday and that there was an investigation into the incident.

“The embassy was able to speak to the Filipina’s eldest sister in the Philippines as well as her cousin in Lebanon to convey its condolences,” the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said.

“The embassy has ensured the safety of the rest of the female wards in the shelter and will provide them with counselling as needed.”

Teodoro Locsin, the Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary, the woman’s remains would be brought back to her homeland.

An estimated 250,000 domestic workers, mostly from Ethiopia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, live in Lebanon, many in conditions condemned by rights groups.

Those conditions have worsened in recent months as Lebanon grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades, as well as the coronavirus lockdown.

Some Lebanese families have started paying their home help in the depreciating local currency, while others are now unable to pay them at all.

There have been increasing reports of domestic workers being thrown on to the streets.

Maids, nannies and carers are excluded from Lebanon's labour law and are left at the mercy of their employers, who pay them as little as $150 a month.

The death of the maid came after a visit to the embassy shelter by a delegation from Lebanon's National Human Rights Commission.

On Monday the commission, in a letter sent to the embassy and posted on Facebook, criticised conditions at the shelter.

"The occupancy exceeds the official capacity," it said.

"Respect the minimum requirements for daily outdoor exercise" and "make available appropriate psychological support to all women and staff".

The commission called on Lebanese authorities to "ensure that migrant domestic workers are protected from exploitative working conditions during the lockdown".

Human rights groups last week raised concerns that about 26 Filipina domestic workers, some of whom were working without legal documents, were being held in over-crowded conditions, although embassy staff repeatedly denied mistreatment.

Bassam Al Kantar, of the National Human Rights Commission of Lebanon. said these women “have not seen the light of day for more than 40 days”.

A video posted by the embassy on its Facebook page on Monday said the shelter was home to 26 people who receive "all meals and necessities" free of charge.