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Lebanon: Money Transfer Crisis Affects Foreign Workers

Lebanon: Money Transfer Crisis Affects Foreign Workers

Sunday, 1 December, 2019 - 09:15
An African domestic worker washes the stairs of a shop in Jounieh area, north of the Lebanese capital of Beirut, on April 23, 2019. (AFP)

A few days ago, Bouzi, an Ethiopian worker, was unable to transfer a small sum to her family back home after learning that a money transfer company has placed a ceiling for financial transfers to $300 per week.

Bouzi told Asharq Al-Awsat she had to return the next day and send only $200 to her family.

The Ethiopian girl is one of few foreign domestic workers who are still receiving their salaries in the US dollar.

“The majority of foreign domestic workers are now being paid in the Lebanese Lira,” Zeina Ammar, a Lebanese activist with the Anti-Racism Movement, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

She said the Movement encourages employers to pay those workers in the US dollar to help them avoid facing problems when transferring the money to their homeland.

“A week ago, the money transfer companies accepted to transfer their salaries in the Lebanese Lira at the exchange rate of LL1,520 per $1. But, now, they are only accepting transfers in the US dollar, a move that prevented several workers to send money to their needy families or forced them to exchange their salaries at a rate of LL2,000 per $1,” Ammar said.

In Sidon, several money transfer firms were accepting sums the Lebanese Lira, however, they exchange those sums at a high rate, exceeding the LL1,508 set by the Central Bank.

Malak, a Lebanese woman from the southern city, said she had to pay an extra LL120,000 ($80) to the money transfer firm to be able to send LL450,000 ($300), the salary of her domestic helper, to Ethiopia.

What happens with the foreign domestic workers in Lebanon applies to all foreign workers who are paying the price of the currency crisis.

Director of the Employees' and Workers' Unions in Lebanon (FENASOL), Castro Abdullah, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Most foreign workers at local factories and companies are now losing 30 to 40 percent of their salaries. Those workers have to exchange their salaries paid in the Lebanese Lira to the US dollar before transferring the sum to their families.”

However, head of Public Relations at OMT Joyce Mouawad told Asharq Al-Awsat the company had not placed any ceiling or new measures on money transfers.

She said OMT operates through Western Union and abides by international rules.

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