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Homelessness among Migrant Workers on the Rise

Wednesday, 2 September, 2020

Migrants and their families in Lebanon have been severely affected by the August 4 explosion. In addition to the people still missing, those who have been injured, and those who lost their lives, many have also lost their windows, walls, and valuable appliances. This effectively means that they lost their homes as most of them cannot afford any of the repairs required to make their homes livable again.

This tragedy comes after hundreds of migrant workers have been made homeless by their employers who dumped them on the streets or their landlords who evicted them. Since April 2020, we received 600 calls from migrant workers threatened with eviction and we know of more than 200 domestic workers illegally discarded by their employers.

In response to the many crises that hit Lebanon this year and to stand in solidarity with migrants who are often left out of humanitarian assistance, ARM started a relief project, distributing food and hygiene kits to more than 900 migrant households since April 2020. ARM also continues to offer migrant communities free legal advice and supports them with cases of unpaid wages and abuse. We work closely with MSF and other organizations to provide free medical and psycho-social support when needed. ARM is also raising funds to repatriate migrant workers who wish to go back home.

We deeply regret, however, that after having assisted 33 workers in finding shelter between April and June by referring them to our networks, we no longer have the capacity to meet the ever-increasing demand. Finding shelter is extremely labor-intensive and can take up to one day of work to find a safe place for one person only. We are past the stage of any effective case-by-case intervention. 

The majority of formal shelters that we used to count on have stopped receiving new people, mostly due to COVID-19. Informal shelters, mostly funded by migrant community groups, are also at full capacity. Migrant workers are already sharing overcrowded rooms in barely livable conditions. In the most extreme case, 34 Sierra Leonean women are living in a two-bedroom apartment. Migrant workers are finding it increasingly difficult to open their houses for sheltering, due to the lack of space and the fear of landlord’s disapproval. We have received multiple reports of eviction threats by landlords due to overcrowding. 

Residents of overcrowded apartments are also facing extreme harassment by neighbours, including physical violence, threats and calling the police on them. They are at a disproportionate risk of contracting COVID-19 as the overcrowding limits their ability to follow basic prevention guidelines. Their mental health is also severely threatened. Many migrant workers found on the street have faced extreme situations in Lebanon and require special facilities and specialized care. 

Although several people contacted us to offer their houses for sheltering, the enormous load of emergencies has made us unable to arrange, facilitate or micromanage the sheltering of migrant workers at temporary houses. 

 

How you can support a homeless migrant woman in Lebanon:

  1. Find out if she knows anyone in Lebanon that can offer shelter from family to friends, offer them the use of your phone to contact them since homeless or abandoned migrant workers often have no phone or internet to use it.

  2. Call the different organizations that have shelters to see if they have capacity. 

  • Caritas Hotline: 76 555335 

  • Kafa Helpline: 76 090910

  1. If not, ask your friends and networks if anyone has the capacity to host her at your own responsibility.

  2. If she needs support to register for repatriation, free legal advice to help with cases of unpaid wages or abuse, or help in connecting her with migrant community groups, she can send us a voice note to 71776989 or 76051169.

  3. If she needs medical care, she can send a voice note to MSF’s Medical Helpline for migrant communities 81 300 687.

  4. If she needs food packages or baby and sanitary kits, she can send a voice note to our Food Helpline 76 626 379

 

How to support on a bigger scale:

  1. Join the Housing Coalition to help us prevent eviction

  2. Support our advocacy efforts and lobby governments of migrant communities’ countries of origins to evacuate their citizens from Lebanon immediately! Follow our website and social media pages regularly to get concrete steps on how to make that happen.

Donate money or encourage your friends to donate to support our efforts to reach migrant workers in need.