Feature Article of Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Columnist: Braimah, Neysa
Lebanon, blessed with beautiful beaches and magnificent mountains, is located in the Middle East. However, in its belly contains dark and dirty secrets disguised by beautiful houses funded by the riches mostly obtained from booming Lebanese owned businesses in Africa. Ghanaians hustle day by day enduring all kinds of abuse and threats which remain hushed and on the low, but I’ve chosen to do otherwise; to expose the plight of Ghanaians in Lebanon.
I met a young African girl who worked for a Lebanese family in the suburb of Hosh in southern Lebanon whom I observed every day. Every evening she would sit on the floor of the balcony eating from a bowl like a dog. She would run back and forth running errands whenever she was sent for. Other times she would sit on the floor of the balcony which became her home, till a bit past midnight when she retired to bed after the family ended their loud nightly recaps of the day. This girl would be up by 4:00am cleaning the house and this happened every blessed day. I sometimes observed her looking up in to the sky as she sat on the floor of the balcony. I could see loneliness engraved on her sullen face. I woke up everyday seeing this face and this led me make the decision to address this issue of inhumanity.
There is an estimated number of 3,000 Ghanaians living in Lebanon. Most women are maidservants and cleaners whereas the men are usually handy men who engage in carpentry, plumbing etc, however they are not self-employed and never will be as foreigners are not allowed to rent stores nor own any businesses. This encumbering law is backed by the fact that as soon as employed Ghanaian laborers arrive in Lebanon their passports and documents are seized by their madams or masters, making these laborers the property of their Lebanese employers as they have no way to return home.
Many maidservants endure unthinkable maltreatment. Some sleep in kitchens, under stairs or in the bathroom. My younger brother, who schools in Lebanon due to my parents work with the United Nations, has been a witness to some of these horrendous acts. My brother usually has afterschool lessons with his Lebanese school teacher at her house. He has come home quite a number of times to report how his teacher canes her maid’s palms till the skin breaks and has to resume work right afterwards. He also reported how his teacher’s maid sleeps on the kitchen floor with no comforter while she, the schoolteacher has four bedrooms, no children nor husband. This is completely despicable and insane!
Many Ghanaian maid servants are fed once a day whereas some do not receive food at all. House help agencies back in Ghana deceive Ghanaian women in search of work by promising them high salaries and good working conditions. However, upon arriving here they are forced to face conflicting conditions as promises and assurances given by agencies evaporate into thin air. These Ghanaians become neglected as they are left at the mercy of their masters and madams as they cannot contact their agencies. This is because agencies usually change their numbers or the madams and masters who directly engage with the agencies refuse to give their servants the agency’s number when they are asked for it. Moreover, some maidservants sign contracts that are a year or two less than what the agencies communicate to the potential employers. Later, when these maidservants approach their employers when their contracts are close to terminating, they are hit hard with the reality that they have one or two more years left for their contracts to end. And when they try to fight back and demand their money so they can return home, their employers throw them off the balcony. Some are also forced to remain in the hands of their masters and madams uncertain of ever seeing home again.
Some Ghanaians in the past have seen the consulate, Michel S. Haddad, to file complaints to him. However nothing seems to change. I mean how do you expect a Lebanese to go against his own people? Yet, this man has been in charge of the welfare of Ghanaians and solving any issues that our people cannot overcome on their own for several years. Ghanaians complain bitterly about this consulate and are desperately pleading to get a new one, one who is theirs, one who is like them…a Ghanaian, for who is there to project their voices? I am sick and tired of being insulted every day I’ve spent in this country. Lebanese constantly wonder why Ghanaians are in their country. They usually say “go home…Ghana is good, too good” indeed it is for them, why not for us? No wonder so many of them swarm in to Ghana like a plague, boasting to be Ghanaians. Ironically, they do not treat us as their fellows in Lebanon. Some do not even know what part of Ghana they are from. I witnessed a situation like that whereby, an immigration officer at the airport asked a Lebanese mother of two which part of Ghana she is from and she was clueless. Another scenario which I was involved in occurred on my return to Ghana. A Lebanese woman who is a Ghanaian passport holder was conversing with her fellow Lebanese on the flight and she was bitterly telling them how Ghana is so dirty and is heavily drenched with the smell of urine. My mother, myself and other Ghanaians were infuriated by this statement she made and we said our piece of mind to her. It is clear that this woman is not proud of her country of citizenship and does not deserve to be a Ghanaian if she hates it so much. Another Lebanese man I met in Lebanon proudly admitted that a Ghanaian made a passport for him for $50.00. I was so embarrassed! Yet, no foreigner is entitled to citizenship in Lebanon , even if he or she is born there. A baby born to a foreigner in Lebanon is not entitled to a birth certificate or citizenship.
Mere words cannot wholly describe the plight of Ghanaians here in Lebanon. This is just a gist of the real picture which you may find hard to believe, but here is an interview providing the account of four Ghanaians who have lived in Lebanon for many years.
I am appealing to you to find it in your heart to come to the aid of our people in Lebanon.