Hero Beirut migrant worker dashes to protect child amid blast shock

Hero Beirut migrant worker dashes to protect child amid blast shock
Social media users have hailed the worker as a hero and called for better treatment of migrant labourers.
3 min read
05 August, 2020
The worker's selfless act was captured on camera [Twitter]

As images of the horiffic blasts that rocked Lebanon's capital flooded social media on Tuesday, the world was left in shock at the scale of the destruction caused.

Yet amid the grief and condolences, there were also moments that drew admiration and praise.

One such instance was that of a domestic worker who dashed to save a child when the Beirut port blast rocked their apartment, the scene captured on video.

It has been suggesed that the lady was likely a migrant worker who was taking care of the child as she used a vacuum cleaner.

In the CCTV footage, the child can be seen playing just moments before the room's windows shatter due to the blast's impact. As the room shakes, the worker grabs the toddler and carries the child out of sight.

The video went viral on social media, prompting many to praise her actions and call for better treatment of migrant workers in the Middle East.

"Migrant worker grabs toddler and saves her from shattered glass and windows as the second big explosion erupted in Beirut earlier today. She did not even think. Migrant workers deserve better in #Lebanon - this woman is a hero," wrote journalist Luna Safwan.

"Though people demonise migrant and immigrant workers, they are more human and even place themselves in harms way to protect others. Shame people can't realise how much these people do," wrote another Twitter user.

As of Wednesday, the video has been viewed over 1.3 million times and garnered thousands of likes and retweets.

Around 250,000 migrants - usually women - work as housekeepers, nannies and carers in Lebanese homes, a large proportion Ethiopian and some for as little as $150 a month.

None are protected by the country's labour law.

Instead, they work under a sponsorship system called kafala that has been widely condemned by human rights groups as abusive and racist.

Under kafala, an employer pays around $2,000 to $5,000 to a recruitment agency to find a helper, with prices varying according to nationality. The employer then sponsors the worker to stay legally in the country.

The live-in employee cannot resign without their permission, or she becomes undocumented. Nothing prohibits an employer from confiscating the worker's passport.

This leaves the worker entirely at the mercy of their employer.

Activists have long called for an end to kafala in the oil-rich Gulf, but a raging economic crisis in Lebanon has given the issue new urgency.

Read also: 'End neo-slavery': Lebanon maid abandonment sparks outrage

With tight capital controls and the value of the Lebanese pound plummeting on the black market, employers are struggling to find dollars to pay their foreign staff. Some are no longer paying the workers and others are forcing them out of their homes.

Ignored by consular staff, several have had to sleep rough on the pavement before they could find shelter.

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