COVID-19: Migrant workers’ attempts to survive in Lebanon

“It was a difficult period in general, so what if you lived in a house of 28 people using two communal health facilities, or another house of about 30 people using one health facility!” begins Maisa (a pseudonym at the request of the source), a foreign worker I came to Lebanon from one of the African countries, with these words and in their foreign language, to express the difficult situation experienced by foreign workers and foreign workers who are looking for their livelihood in the country that has been going through bad economic and political conditions for years.

On February 21, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Lebanon. Then the crises besieging the Lebanese intensified terrifyingly, amid the monopoly of all tools, preventive materials and medicines that may be a hope to save the life of an injured person as a result of the epidemic. This is in addition to the collapse of the health sector, as if the epidemic came to complete the party of madness that struck Lebanon.

While the Lebanese drowned in attempts to escape from this infection, with doors closed tightly amid mandatory social distancing, there were neighborhoods close to them that their feet did not trample on, and since that date they bore scars as a result of a lot of neglect, fear and racism that they experienced. Except for the weight of an epidemic that came to burden those who have been burdened by life with hardships in a country where there are no minimum requirements for a decent life.

Maysa has had a difficult and horrific experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. “All I tried to do was to survive with the least possible damage, because we were forced to hide our injury in the event that the infection spread to us from the places we travel between to work, or from those who share housing with us. Injuring one of us means that everyone is infected… But we had to hide it.” Otherwise, it will not be clear what our fate will be, dismissal from work or racist discriminatory treatment worse than before,” she adds.

“Everyone was afraid of letting us into his house,” “we were forced to hide our infection with Covid,” and “we didn’t have the price of sanitizers”… Migrant workers in #Lebanon tell Raseef22 how their living situation became tragic in light of the #Corona pandemic

The foreign worker continues: “Everyone was afraid of letting us into their house at that time. I sometimes worked part-time during the epidemic, and most of the housewives treated us in a hurtful and humiliating way, so that we had to not go in with our shoes, and we had to put on two masks. They asked us to clean The floors and windows were sterilized, but if we touched something like cups and cups, the lady would rush to clean and sterilize it from behind us, annoyingly as if we were carrying the virus.”

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She stresses that “it was very painful for me. I can only say that it was a very difficult period, because the discrimination towards us increased even more. If we passed near someone, we would feel their fear as if we were carrying an epidemic.”

It was not much different with Aidan, a mother of two sons, who said: “The epidemic phase was difficult and tiring, filled with fear, discrimination and violence directed against us. People were afraid to go up in the elevator with me. Because of my black skin, I saw discrimination looks directed at me. People’s looks On the streets, it was not so comfortable that the employers were afraid to let us into their homes, and this also made our living situation much more difficult, as it was difficult to protect ourselves from this epidemic and protect our children.”

The difficulty of this living situation is very evident in the presence of children. Aydin says: “What I feared the most were my children, especially from the discrimination they had suffered. Many children were prevented from playing with them. They were crying and very angry because they were staying at home, and I was looking at them unable to do anything but feel sad. Unfortunately, they do not have freedom.

She added that she was often unable to bear the expenses of her two children. “At that time I wasn’t able to provide shampoo for my children. We also didn’t have the ability to buy sanitizers. That’s why we were trying to get by from the ocean and neighbors, and that’s why I sometimes used the mask for several days, I used it when I went out of the house and then came back and hung it up.” rumbled.

Even her struggle with the virus was not easy. Aydin continues: “I woke up that morning with sharp pains in my head, as if I had a cold, and my body temperature rose. That’s when I knew that I had caught the infection. We could not avoid the epidemic, we are 15 people in the end of the house where we share the same bathroom, which means transmission of infection is inevitable. For my children or others in the housing. I did not go out during my infection with Covid and did not contact any organization to ask for help because I do not know if there are organizations that help.”

This is not the only reason for concealing the injury and not seeking help for male and female migrant workers in Lebanon, including from their partners. Aydin added, “I was also afraid that if someone knew, the whole building would be under quarantine. Because we are also black, and originally there is racial discrimination facing us everywhere, I was afraid to go to the hospital because I felt that I would die if I went. I know that It was necessary to quarantine myself so as not to infect anyone, but sometimes I was afraid to tell my roommates about my infection. I was just isolating myself at home.”

“We lost one of our colleagues because of the epidemic, he died without being able to get help for him… When he contracted the virus, his wife was afraid to call and ask for help. Everyone was afraid that we would have to leave the building or be abused. Several days later he died.”

When Misa was also infected with the virus, she did not tell any of her family or those living with her. “I knew I was infected because of the well-known symptoms. I had hard and hard nights, when I was afraid of death. I had been boiling ginger, lemon and cinnamon so that I wouldn’t have to seek help or go to the hospital,” she tells. It is noteworthy that there is no scientific evidence of the effectiveness of herbs in curing COVID-19.

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In particular, Aydin was afraid that someone/one of them would die from Corona for fear of seeking help. “That stage was terrifying,” she says. “I was so scared that I couldn’t imagine losing one of them…but we were just getting on with it.”

Unfortunately, what she was afraid of happened, as she asserts: “We lost one of our colleagues due to the epidemic, he died without being able to seek help for him. This day will not be forgotten. We were fearful. I think that Covid is affected by the strength and weakness of the immune system, and perhaps it was not immunity.” The man was enough to fight this infection.When he contracted the virus, he could no longer breathe and the symptoms were severe.His wife was afraid to call and call for help so that the neighbors wouldn’t notice that there was an infection in our house.Everyone was afraid because then we might have to leave the building or be abused. “.

With a sigh, she continues: “After several days, he died. We were all afraid of touching him because of the epidemic. He stayed for two days and asked for help from an association, I don’t remember its name. She helped us to bury him and I don’t know where they buried him. Everything that happened was because we didn’t have residency papers and others, and that’s what We were unable to help him.”

Maysa notes that COVID-19 has exacerbated their already miserable situation due to the crisis in Lebanon. “Our situation was so dire that the economic crisis came in Lebanon, and we lost our jobs after the situation became more difficult. Before the epidemic, we did not live a safe life, I was also living in an apartment with 30 people, and the places we lived in were not qualified and we were unable to stay in Safety from harassment or diseases that can be transmitted from shared bathrooms, or even psychologically. Fear and discrimination have always haunted us, but this time it was worse than all the times. It was like an endless terror…”

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Shortening and discrimination in response plans

In April 2020, the Anti-Racism Movement in Lebanon launched an appeal urging the Lebanese government, international organizations and local initiatives to implement comprehensive and non-discriminatory response plans to the COVID-19 pandemic, considering that there are 1.5 million non-Lebanese people in Lebanon. However, most official response plans do not take this into account, and are deeply flawed and endanger the entire Lebanese and non-Lebanese population.

The movement warned of the danger of living conditions associated with the spread of the epidemic, which expose refugees and independent migrant workers to the risk of infection for many reasons, most notably the reluctance of refugees and migrants to go to the hospital for examination or treatment for fear of arrest due to the expiration of residence permits.

Many of the people of this category live in crowded camps or apartments and do not have any facilities for self-isolation, which means that one infected person can lead to a significant increase in cases, in addition to the fact that many of them have to work to secure their food and pay the rent for their homes, and therefore they They are forced to mix with other people as well as to travel using public transportation. Most have limited access to clean water, disinfectants, gloves and masks.

“All I tried to do was to survive with the least possible damage”… Migrant workers who are trapped in Corona in #Lebanon are a category “marginalized with unknown fate, besieged by fear waiting for laws that do justice to them, and associations whose cause is given better attention.”

Meanwhile, This is Lebanon urged migrant workers to get vaccinated because many of them were afraid. For example, Aydin says, “My children and I didn’t take the vaccine, because I don’t have confidence in it. I think if I take it I might die or something bad will happen to me.”

Attempts to educate and vaccinate migrant workers in Lebanon remain “shy and insufficient,” especially in light of the scarcity and absence of comprehensive and safe response plans, especially for marginalized groups.

What can be understood is that the extent of the harm inflicted on migrant workers and workers is great, so that this marginalized group of people cannot receive the necessary treatment if they contract any disease, not just Covid. Therefore, this group remains marginalized, with unknown fate, surrounded by fear, awaiting laws that do justice to it, and associations that give it better attention to its cause.

This report was produced with the support of Maharat Foundation and Internews as part of the RIT project.

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