Lebanese security forces have arrested a man suspected of putting a Nigerian domestic worker up “for sale” on a popular Facebook page used to trade everyday items such as furniture, food and shoes.
“Domestic worker of African citizenship (Nigerian) for sale with a new residency and full legal papers,” an account under the name Wael Jerro posted on the page, named Buy and Sell in Lebanon. The exact date of the post remains unclear.
The suspect was arrested on Thursday by Lebanon’s General Security agency, the country’s leading intelligence agency, which also controls entry and exit from the small Mediterranean nation. General Security said an investigation was under way in the case, and warned that advertising people online violated the country’s human trafficking laws, subjecting perpetrators to prosecution.
The arrest came after Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najem on Wednesday ordered the judiciary to follow up on the case, citing Lebanon’s anti-human trafficking law. Lebanon’s Ministry of Labour also released a statement saying anyone who advertises domestic workers online would be prosecuted.
Najem said in a statement that the case represented a “blatant violation of human dignity”.
The case has sparked fury in Nigeria, where officials requested the Lebanese authorities to investigate the incident.
“The government is very angry,” said Julie Okah-Donli, director-general of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). “The Lebanese government should prosecute him and rescue other girls that have been sold or [are] about to be sold into slavery.”
Some 250,000 migrant domestic workers – most from sub-Saharan African countries such as Ethiopia and Ghana, and southeast Asian countries including Nepal and the Philippines – reside in Lebanon.
Domestic workers in Lebanon are legally bound to their employers through the country’s notorious kafala system, which only allows them to end their contracts with the consent of employers.
The system has led to widespread abuse, ranging from the withholding of wages, to physical and sexual assault. Camille Abousleiman, Lebanon’s former labour minister, has called it “modern-day slavery”.
While Lebanon’s Ministry of Labour says it is working to improve protection for domestic workers by amending the contract between them and their employers, experts say the abuse will continue until the kafala system is entirely abolished.