When the 39 Nepalese migrant domestic workers spilled out of the arrivals gate at Kathmandu airport last month, many vowed to return to the country in which they had experienced terrible hardship. Some had been beaten and forced to endure slave-like conditions; the majority had been trafficked.
For years, the women lived illegally in Lebanon, with no means to return home after fleeing abusive employers. The country’s stringent kafala system, which binds migrant staff to their boss, meant that when the women escaped, they lost everything: their legal status, passports and wages.
It was only with the help of a local association, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), as well as the Nepali embassy in Egypt (Nepal does not have an embassy in Lebanon), that the women were eventually able to return to home.