Filipina domestic worker dies suspiciously at 'overcrowded' shelter in Lebanon

Filipina domestic worker dies suspiciously at 'overcrowded' shelter in Lebanon
A migrant worker taking shelter at the Philippines embassy in Lebanon died in 'suspicious circumstances', prompting Manila to launch an investigation into the incident.
2 min read
25 May, 2020
There are over 30,000 Filippinos in Lebanon, employed under the controversial 'Kafala' system [Facebook]
The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Sunday it is following up on the reported suicide of a domestic worker who was taken in by the embassy in Beirut.

The 29-year-old Filipina, Jenalyn Banares, died on Sunday at a hospital after reportedly jumping from the embassy-provided shelter she was sharing with other women.

According to the DFA, Benares moved into the shelter – which is housing women who have lost their jobs, have not been paid, or do not have proper documentation – on Friday.

Lebanon's Internal Security Forces are conducting an investigation and are yet to release an official statement citing her cause of death.

Banares's death comes after recent concerns raised by human rights groups regarding the condition of some 26 women staying at the embassy shelter.

The reports prompted the embassy to release a video, denying allegations of mistreatment and interviewing the women at the shelter.

Read also: Philippines ambassador to Lebanon dies from coronavirus complications

Testimonies of women and an witness shared with The New Arab claimed the video was "staged."

Many Filipino workers in economic crisis-hit Lebanon are waiting to return home after losing their jobs before and during the coronavirus crisis. 

The spread of the virus to Lebanon and the preceding economic crisis – now characterised by an all-time-high currency depreciation and a shortage of hard currency – has hit some 250,000 migrant workers employed in Lebanon especially hard.

With the closure of the airport, thousands wanting to return are now stranded in the country with little to no cash.

"The embassy was able to speak to the Filipina's eldest sister in the Philippines as well as her cousin in Lebanon to convey its condolences," the DFA said in its statement and promised counseling to women at the shelter who might need it.

"As details on the incident are currently being investigated, the embassy has ensured the safety of the rest of the female wards in the shelter and will provide them counseling, as needed," the DFA said.

Benares's family members and relatives are urging a serious investigation to be conducted into her death. 

"We are looking forward to a further investigation," her uncle Carlo Echemane, told The New Arab, adding that much of the family is still in shock and wants answers.

Under Lebanon's Kafala system – which exempts foreign workers from labour protection laws and binds them to the employer – rights groups say that up to two domestic workers die every week, in what is often reported as a suicide.

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