The status quo for many Migrant workers in Lebanon is not a healthy one, nor a happy one; as Migrant workers here suffer from racism, which stenches itself in several aspects of their Lebanese life; from unequal pay and bad working conditions, to shameless mockery and in some cases, abuse. There have been many initiatives to improve this present plight for the migrants, and one of them is being renovated in Nabaa and will open its doors with warm greetings on the 11th of September.
The Anti-Racism Movement (ARM) has announced the launch of their Migrant House in Nabaa, near the Life Center Church. It is one of the biggest initiatives by ARM, and will be opening on the 11th of September. It hopes to be a safe and prosperous location for the many migrant workers living in Nabaa, to come and participate in many activities: Activism and otherwise. I sat down and spoke with one of the people responsible for its launch, and a member of ARM, Miss Farah Salka. I asked her about several issues concerning the Migrant House, including why it’s needed, how it works, what can it offer to migrant workers, as well as what it hopes to achieve.
Miss Salka and her fellow activists in ARM were becoming more aware through consultations that a very large number of migrants and activists want a migrant house, where like-minded and similar-circumstanced individuals can discuss and work on issues concerning migrants, such as the labor law, for example. “It will be a center for them, led by them.” She said, and upon a request for elaboration, she clarified that many initiatives to help migrant workers have seen them as beneficiaries of activist efforts; however, this house will be a hand-in-hand effort between the activists and migrants to tackle the issues that migrants face. This house will be financed for at least one year by ARM, who will also be the face of the house, and handle all legal and security issues, however, it will not interfere with any of the activities within the house itself, as Miss Salka explains “ARM is fully taking care of it [Migrant House] and respects the fact that it’s their [Migrants’] space.” And any problems and/or concerns that arise is the circumstance when ARM will pop up to help.
The house also is available for donations, as anyone can donate just about anything to benefit the house, from cooking food and teaching language, to activism and advocacy. There is no limit to the amount and diversity of possible donations. The house will also see a new trend of celebrating different cultures, since, as Miss Salka explained, some (if not most) Lebanese people judge migrants for their ‘weird’ ways, and without even knowing where they come from, an ethnocentricity which will be absent in the migrant house, as it will see the celebration of different cultures, as well as different countries’ holidays and significant dates.
On the activism angle, the house will hope to unite the different migrant community leaders (Unofficially elected leaders of the different migrants in Lebanon, who are very experienced with the issues facing them and are a voice for those who can’t speak) under one roof, so that issues facing migrants can be dealt with more potently and more rapidly, as Miss Salka explained “Having this space will accelerate the progress done on migrant workers issues, and improve its quality in terms of advocacy, networking, awareness, etcetera.”
The coordinator of the house, Miss Priya Subedi, a Nepalese community leader, has called the house “the golden opportunity” for all the Migrants which has never before been present in Lebanon, and encourages all who can come, to do so. Miss priya will be coordinating the many different activities which will be going on in the house, as well as look into the emergence of new ones through suggestions and ideas; Miss Salka noted that eventually, more ideas will emerge, such as a Skype office, a calendar-reservation for rooms, language and computer classes, etc…
The migrant house will open its doors as aforementioned on the 11th of September, (Which Miss Salka noted is a “reclamation” of that date) from 3 to 8 pm, near Life Center Church. Signs will be put up prior to the opening. After the opening, the house will be open five to six hours on weekdays, and ten hours on weekends, when migrant workers usually have days off.