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Jan 10 2012
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Rita Kamel: Migrant Workers

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Rita Kamel: Migrant Workers
Dear Migrant Workers in Lebanon, 
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No one leaves home if all was going well. Poverty makes people do all kind of things. 

A lot of posts have already been written about how Lebanon came to institutionalize racism. Rare are those who have actually met their employers before starting to work. Some of the home helpers get so badly treated that they commit suicide. Many beach resorts ban the right to access the beach or the pool. Some confiscate your passports because they are afraid of you. Are you even getting a day off? You build our homes and offices... you keep them clean. You look after the kids and the pets. You clean our streets and public toilets. You fill our cars with gas and wash them. You make our food, lift the heavy weights, farm our lands. You take on all these jobs because we're too proud to do them ourselves. I will not generalize though. 

Some Lebanese would not mind doing any of the jobs as long as it's a job; but let's face it. Most of us are too proud. Minimum wage doesn't provide us with the bare minimum; so we prefer to stay unemployed or flee to another country. We don't mind those jobs in other countries, do we? I see the women gathering in the morning taking their coffee and discussing their adventures with their home helpers and nagging. During the school days, I used to see home helpers walking the dogs and construction workers sleeping in the worst conditions during winter. 

For many people I know, home helpers have replaced their own mothers. Anything works for you, as long you get paid and send some money back home to your families. Some of you have lived in Lebanon for more than 10 years and speak perfect Arabic. Some of you have families and are sending your kids to school. We're doing the same abroad. It's understandable.

Dear Migrant Workers in Lebanon, for whatever job you decide to take and salary you agree on, remember that you are human. Whether we are the same color or not, we both breathe, bleed, feel pain and happiness but some of us tend to forget it and some companies base their business models on some sort of human trade. 

Today, we live in a time where mothers take cans from their children's hands and throw them out of the window and men empty the trash from their car on the ground where they parked. Today, we leave our popcorn boxes and cans in the movie theaters, on the floor, before we go out. Today, we leave public toilets in an unacceptable state. Today, we litter anywhere because we expect that someone will clean up after us. Are we authorized to litter just because we hired migrant workers to clean up? 

The sad part of the story is that the same people who litter complain about littering. I want to see clear laws concerning any human on Lebanese soil that do not classify as human. No human life is more important than another. I want to see littering punished. It's already stressful when one leaves their home country because of economic reasons...why do we create ways to make it even harder? They are helping us getting a lot of jobs done! 

Dear people, next time you go out from a public toilet and see the migrant helper staff who will be cleaning after you, think to say "Thank you" on your way out. Actually, it would not hurt to say "Thank you" every time anyone does something for you to live at a higher standard. 

A better Lebanon is one of openness and respect to all people, regardless of their origins everybody is treated as a human being. 



Rita Kamel is a blogger and LBCblogs contributor. You can find her on Twitter here or check out her website
Photo courtesy of Fadi BouKaram
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