Kenyan migrant women protest outside Beirut consulate

The protests on Beirut’s normally busy Badaro street began on Monday, days after a blast at the country’s main port laid waste to large parts of the capital, exacerbating nearly a year of political and economic crises. CNN contacted the consulate but has yet to receive a comment about the protests.

Many of the protesters are undocumented migrants who say they have paid exorbitant fees to Kenya’s consulate in hopes of being repatriated.

Last month, CNN reported allegations of abuse at Nairobi’s consulate, run by honorary consul Sayed Chalouhi, in Beirut. Multiple women said they were exploited, verbally abused or physically assaulted by Chalouhi and his assistant, Kassem Jaber, both Lebanese nationals. Jaber has denied all allegations of wrongdoing leveled at the consulate.

There are upwards of 1,000 Kenyan women in the tiny eastern Mediterranean country. Most of the migrant community are female domestic workers who are sponsored to be in Lebanon under the controversial Kefala system, a form of indentured servitude which ties the woman’s immigration status to a live-in work contract.

Several Kenyan women have been staging their demonstrations until the early hours of the morning, calling the consulate’s employees “thieves” and at times facing off with the assistant consul at the gates of the building, according to video seen by CNN.

They were laid off and far from home. Now an explosion in Beirut has left them even more vulnerable

“Kassem we come to the office, you tell us to go and do prostitution,” one woman yelled at Jaber on Monday, according to the videos. “We don’t have work.”

CNN contacted the consulate but has yet to receive a comment about the protests.

In addition to the allegations of abuse, four women told CNN they witnessed Chalouhi suggesting that Kenyan women seek sex work in order to cover their consular expenses.

All of the witnesses said Chalouhi and Jaber regularly overcharge Kenyan women for consular fees. Jaber has denied those accusations.

The Kenyan government has said it will dispatch a fact-finding mission to the Lebanese capital to look into CNN’s reports of mistreatment at their country’s consulate. CNN contacted the consulate but has yet to receive a comment about the protests.

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