Continuing his examination of migration in the COVID world, Edwin Tran examines how the pandemic has exposed risks in Lebanon and the wider region’s Kafala immigration system, and how this has resulted in extremely precarious positions for migrant workers amongst the collapse of the Lebanese Lira, which has rendered their meagre earnings almost worthless.

Known as the Kafala System, this institution has enabled countries like the United Arab Emirates to present themselves as pristine nations, with clean streets and beautiful malls. However, these polished surfaces are maintained by squalor living conditions and rampant employee abuse. It is said that for every block in Dubai, there are at least a dozen migrant workers in charge of its maintenance. Lulled by promises of relatively high wages (when compared from their home countries), these migrant workers make the journey mostly by necessity. Remittances play a key part in the economic security of many South Asian and East African countries. According to the World Bank, Bengali workers sent nearly $15 billion back to Bangladesh last year, making it the second highest source of income for the country. With many families in these countries living below the poverty line, the opportunity for better economic circumstances is one few could refuse.

English | July 15, 2020



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