Death of Filipina in embassy shelter in Lebanon under probe: envoy

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 27 2020 07:34 AM

MANILA — Authorities are investigating the apparent suicide of a Filipina domestic worker at a shelter run by her embassy in Lebanon, a consular official said Wednesday.

Employers brought the 29-year-old Filipina to the shelter on Friday due to her "troubled mental state." Before she could undergo psychological assessment, she jumped the next day from the window of a fourth-floor room that she was sharing with 2 others, said Ajeet Panemanglor, charge d'affaires of the Philippine Embassy.

The woman, who started working in Lebanon in August last year, developed behavioral problems when a fellow Filipina left the household they working for, he said.

Relatives did not mention any mistreatment that the Filipina could have suffered at the hands of her employers, Panemanglor said.

The embassy expects to get the results of her forensic examination by the Lebanese police "soon", he said.

Lebanon hosts some 30,000 Filipinos, mostly domestic workers. Of this number, around 130 distressed workers and 26 Filipinos who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic are staying in 2 embassy shelters, said Panemanglor.
 
Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades. Some Lebanese families have started paying their home help in the depreciating local currency, while others are now unable to pay them at all, with increasing reports of domestic workers being evicted onto the streets.

A sponsorship system known as "kafala" excludes maids, nannies and carers from Lebanon's labor law, and leaves them at the mercy of their employers, who pay wages as low as $150 a month.

The death of the Filipina domestic worker comes after a visit to the embassy shelter by a delegation from Lebanon's National Human Rights Commission.

On Monday the commission, in a letter sent to the embassy and posted on Facebook, criticized conditions at the shelter.

"The occupancy exceeds the official capacity," it said.

"Respect the minimum requirements for daily outdoor exercise" and "make available appropriate psychological support to all women and staff," the rights group added.

It also called on Lebanese authorities to "ensure that migrant domestic workers are protected from exploitative working conditions during the lockdown".

A video posted by the embassy on its Facebook page Monday said the shelter was currently home to 26 people who receive "all meals and necessities" free of charge.

— With a report from Agence France-Presse