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  • Faustina Tay, pictured here on her way to Lebanon, was found dead on March 14 in Beirut.

    Faustina Tay, pictured here on her way to Lebanon, was found dead on March 14 in Beirut. | Photo: Al Jazeera

Published 25 March 2020
Opinion

Hours before her death, Faustina Tay had sent a last hopeless message to an activist group she had contacted about the abuse she was enduring at the hands of her employers.

The lifeless body of Faustina Tay, 23, a domestic worker from Ghana was found on March 14 in a car park under the fourth-story home of her employers in Beirut, Lebanon, according to a report by Al Jazeera. 

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Some hours before her death, Tay had sent a last hopeless message to This Is Lebanon, a Canada-based activist group, she had contacted about the abuse she was enduring at the hands of her employers.

"God please help me," Tay wrote hours before she was discovered dead.

A forensic doctor who examined her body said the death was due to an injury to the head "as a result of falling from a high place and crashing into a solid body." A police report said the death was being investigated as a suicide.

Until the time of her death, Tay had lived and worked for 10 months in the home of  Hussein Dia. The man told Al Jazeera that he and his family were sleeping when she died.

Dia said he did not know what had pushed the young girl to take her own life and denied he ever physically assaulted her.

But in the week before her death, Tay sent dozens of text messages and more than 40 minutes of voice messages to This Is Lebanon, and to her brother in Ghana, giving very specific details and accounts of the physical abuse she was suffering regularly.

This Is Lebanon exposes the abuses experienced by migrant domestic workers in Lebanon in an attempt to end government-sanctioned modern-day slavery in the country.

Tay told the group that her employer as well as the owner of the domestic worker's agency that had brought her to Lebanon, Ali Kamal, had each beaten her twice between Jan. 16 and March 6.

She specified that Kamal had beaten her along with one of his employees.

Tay continually expressed fears in her messages, that speaking about what she was going through could have more repercussions and lead to more violence against her.

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But she particularly shared concerns about worse. That her abusers might kill her.

"I'm scared. I'm scared; they might kill me," she said, in a chilling voice note to activists.

Tay’s fate and death are, unfortunately, very common in Lebanon but also in the majority of the countries in the Middle East

There are some 250,000 domestic workers in Lebanon and according to the country's General Security intelligence agency, two die each week, with many falling from high buildings during failed escape attempts, or in cases that are ruled suicides.

Workers like Tay are employed under a system dubbed Kafala, where the responsibility for them is handed to private individuals or companies. It gives these sponsors a set of legal powers to control the workers who find themselves unable to quit jobs or leave the country without the consent of the formers.

This system is in place in several Middle Eastern countries and has led to various forms of abuse, such as non-payment of wages, absence of rest time and days off, and physical and sexual assault.

Women come to Lebanon for domestic work mainly from Southeast Asian and African countries to support their families and eventually return home. But, like in the case of Tay, many do return to their countries in coffins and without justice.

Human Rights Watch found in a 2010 report that Lebanon's judiciary seldom holds employers accountable for abuses, while security agencies do not "adequately investigate claims of violence or abuse".

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