There are an estimated 10,000 people living in modern slavery in Lebanon (GSI 2018). Human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign people in Lebanon, and people from the country abroad. Women and girls from South and Southeast Asia and an increasing number from East and West Africa are subjected to domestic servitude in Lebanon. Lebanese government officials and NGOs report most employers withhold their workers passports, putting them at risk of trafficking. NGOs also report that abuse of domestic is underreported. Many migrant workers arrive in Lebanon through legal employment agencies but are subsequently exploited or abused by their employers; some employment agencies recruit workers through fraudulent or false job offers.
Mary Joy left the Philippines in December 2013 after being promised work in a hotel. She left her three children to go and work in Lebanon. Upon arrival, she found out she would be working in a house. She worked long hours with no rest. Her employer controlled her movement, access to the internet and listened in on her phone calls. Mary Joy was able to leave her employer but was forced to wait 3 months for her case against them to be resolved. She hadn’t seen her children for 18 months. In February 2016 Mary Joy finally got her passport and was able to return home.
My expectations were that I would work in housekeeping in a hotel – not in a house. When I came to the airport in Lebanon, I was shocked. The policemen came and took me directly to me my employer. My agency told me that there is no good work here. My agency told me that there is no good work here. All the work is as a maid in a house.
So, I asked my employer why I had to work in a house. He said, “You will work here for me. Don’t worry. We’ll be good to you.”
I have no rest. I have no days off. I’m just in the house. I have Wi-Fi but madam didn’t connect me to it. She also takes my phone if I make a mistake. She takes it for five or six days before she returns it to me.
I was locked up. Every time they went out, they would lock the door.
This one is my brother, Joel, and this is my second daughters, Jeslyn Kate. This is my third daughter, Debraliz. I miss them. [I look at the picture] every night before I sleep. But only at night because I want to… they don’t know who I am. To them, I’m their sister, not their mother.
The problem is that we have to wait for our employer. It’s as if we’re waiting in vain.
Our lawyer from the embassy is here. Yes. They will talk to us about our cases.
Eight months is too much. It’s too long for us to stay here. [crying] Sometimes I think that they’re lying to us.
On 8th November, it was my sixth month here.
The first time that she hit me, she slapped me – and moved my clothes in front of her daughter. Afterwards she said to me, “I’m sorry. I don’t want to do this but you made a mistake.” I told her, “If I make a mistake, don’t hit me. You should correct my mistake. Because I’m only a human. All humans make mistakes.”
I checked the door. When he went out, the key was in the door. When I pushed the doorknob from the inside, the door was open. I quickly packed my things and ran away.
It’s not good. It feels like prison because we cannot even go out. I want to go to the investigation to know what’s going to happen next. If my madam will pay my ticket and send me home.
All the months that I have been here. If I can’t handle myself, I’ll go crazy. I weight 60 kilos when I came. Now 48 kilos. You see so many people here taking medicine for their minds. For the stress. It’s had to live here. I hate it. I don’t need a psychiatrist. I want to go home. That’s all I want.
Narrative as told to filmmakers for The Secret Slaves of the Middle East. Credit is given to The Why Foundation and Documentary Filmmakers Puk Damsgaard & Søren Klovborg