‘African maids sacked and stranded’ after Beirut blast

Some Lebanese employers have sacked their African maids since the huge explosion destroyed their houses, according to one domestic worker who fled her employer in February.

Many African women move to Lebanon, and other countries in the Middle East, to work in houses in what is known as the kefala system – which ties your immigration status to your live-in employment – a system which critics say leaves workers vulnerable to abuse from their employers.

Lucy Turay told BBC Focus on Africa radio that fellow domestic workers have been phoned after Tuesday’s explosion by their employers to be told they have lost their jobs because the houses had been destroyed.

Ms Turay herself fled her job as a maid and child minder in February after she said her employer threatened to kill her.

She became homeless until an Indian woman found her on the streets of Beirut and gave her the phone number of her country’s consulate. While she now lives in a safe house, she says she does not have money for a flight home and her consulate does not either.

She says the only way her and her compatriots have to raise the money for their flights home is from funds from a song she wrote.

Journalist Aline Deschamps helped them produce a video of a song.

The lyrics of the song Bye and Bye warn younger women of the dangers of taking a maid’s job in the Middle East.

About employers she sings, “they will beat us, they will kill us, there is no-one to help us, we are working without payment, they don’t care for what we eat, they don’t care for where we sleep”.