Abstract

The proliferation in the number of domestic migrant workers (DMWs), who travel from poorer countries to work in homes in wealthier countries, represents an essential dimension of globalization in the 21st century. This project focuses on DMWs in Lebanon. In an increasingly globalized world, the study of DMWs, who number around 250,000 in Lebanon (Amnesty International, 2019), provides a critical case to understand how the transborder movement of humans generates unique and challenging human rights issues. Lebanon practices the kafala system, which is prevalent in other Middle Eastern countries and makes foreign workers legally dependent on their employment. This system has often been associated with modern-day slavery as employers gain complete authority over their workers’ freedoms and rights. This thesis explores how factors such as the COVID outbreak and characteristics specific to Lebanon, such as massive anti-government protests, the economic downturn, and the Beirut Blast, deepen the precarity of DMWs, including their access to protection from physical and sexual abuse and financial wellbeing. The thesis also includes a discussion of reform attempts and activism on behalf of DMWs in the country.

As well as utilizing news articles, reports, and prior literature, this thesis incorporates interviews with workers, their employers, and NGO workers in the country. By collecting information while the crises are taking place, this research presents unique details about the position of workers as they respond to one challenge after the next. The study confirms the vulnerability of DMWs in times of crisis, highlighting that events such as the anti-government protests failed to advocate for worker’s rights, and crises such as the economic collapse, COVID pandemic, and Beirut Blast created strong nationalistic sentiment that ignored the status of DMWs. Instead of being enabled by progressive demands for Lebanon’s government reform, DMWs were disabled in self-advocacy; instead, much of that activism has taken place on their behalf through NGOs. The thesis attempts to shed light on areas that require immediate attention, including the need to compare Lebanese reforms to those in other states and the necessity of including DMWs in Lebanese labor laws.

Thesis Completion

2021

Semester

Spring

Thesis Chair

Tezcür, Güneş Murat

Co-Chair

Ash, Konstantin

Degree

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

College

College of Sciences

Department

School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs

Degree Program

Political Science; International and Comparative Politics

Language

English

Access Status

Open Access

Release Date

5-1-2021

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