By Sanna Camara
An international Catholic NGO has reached the final stage of over two years’ process to repatriate Gambian girls from Lebanon, who have been trafficked to work as house servants in the Middle Eastern destination country.
This comes against concerted efforts to stem trafficking in persons for which The Gambia has been named “a source, transit and destination country” by a US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report since 2014.
Victims uniting with families
Authoritative sources in Beirut have informed Gambia Beat that all are set for the girls, who are scheduled to leave for Banjul in the coming weeks of January (specific date withheld) to join their families.
Caritas International, a confederation of 165 catholic relief, development and social service organisations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide has used its offices in Beirut to intervene in this crisis, our sources confirmed last week.
The intervention included hiring a lawyer, paying residential permits, and purchasing air tickets to facilitate the return of the girls back to Gambia, sources stated.
All Gambian girls free to return home…
“The first contingent comprises nine girls….. However, the NGO is ready to repatriate all Gambian girls who have been brought here to work as house servants and want to return home,” an official working with the agency that brought the girls to Beirut since 2013 also confirmed.
Under the Lebanese labour laws, these nine girls were obliged to regularise their status before they can leave Lebanon. “The girls violated their contract conditions after they fled their work posts,” the official indicated.
Although they agreed to work and signed contracts to the effect, these girls complained they faced abuse and harsh work conditions which led them to flee their posts.
Once trapped, difficult to return home
Under the said contract and labour regulations, they are considered illegals in Lebanon and have no access to travel documents to enable them return home. They became trapped.
For this reason, Caritas International, the NGO that prides itself to “working to build a better world, especially for the poor and oppressed” helped pay air tickets and residential permit penalties through the General Securities Unit of the Lebanese Immigration Department.
General securities unit was in charge of their documents from sponsors (employers). “They have a lawyer who was responsible for facilitating the process and began contacting persons who signed contracts with the girls….,” the source explained.
“Under the arrangements, anyone who wants to go back can contact Caritas to facilitate their return,” said the source, who was also involved in facilitating the repatriation process.