Stories about Ghanaian and other African migrants being maltreated and in some cases, being abused to death in the Gulf countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates is not a new development to the news media. Reports on such cases come out regularly—some under bizarre circumstances.
Some of the stories are too horrific to imagine. However, in spite of the inhumane treatment many domestic migrant workers suffer in the hands of their employers in the Gulf countries, with some losing their lives in the process, many young Ghanaian men and women through unidentifiable recruitment agencies still travel to theseGulf countries to seek what they term as ‘greener pastures.’
Many of these desirous travelers are with the hope that by going to the Gulf countries, they are inching close to their dreams of making a better life.
On April 7, 2020, the ALJAZEERA with a story headlined: “The desperate final days of a domestic worker in Lebanon” highlighted how a 23-year-old Ghanaian domestic worker, Faustina Tay, died due to abuse she suffered in the hands of her Lebanese employers.
Tay is said to have sent a final desperate message to a Canada-based activist group called “This Is Lebano” she had contacted about the abuse she was suffering in the hands of her Lebanese employers on the morning of March 13, 2020.
Part of her message read: “God please help me.”About 18 hours later after she had sent the message, Tay was found dead.
Her body was discovered in a car park under her employers’ fourth-storey home in Beirut’s southern suburbs, on March 14, 2020.
A forensic doctor who examined her body found that her death was caused by a head injury as a result of falling from a high place and crashing into a solid body.
Tay’s employer, Hussein Dia, whose home Tay had lived and worked in for 10 months said he did not know what had driven Tay to take her own life, and denied ever physically abusing the Ghanaian domestic worker.
“I never laid a hand on her,”Dia was quoted as saying.
But prior to her death, Tay had sent several messages—texts, audios and videos to his brother in Ghana and a Canada-based activist “This Is Lebano”, explaining to them her frustrations and pains.
She said, for instance, that she had been beaten on many occasions by Dia and the head of the recruitment agency that took her to Lebanon, Ali Kamal, for complaining about abuse.
A transcription of one of Tay’s audio messages read:
“The back of my waist is really paining me. I can’t stand for a minute. All my legs are weak and my neck pains so much. I want to go back to my country for treatment; I don’t want to die here. The reason why I am saying this is that after their father beat me up, they took my phone and never gave it back to me. When I came back from the office, I sat in a chair feeling so weak and worried as I cried. The last born, 17 years of age, who took the phone from me brought it back and the third born connected it to the WI-FI. That was how I was able to contact my family and inform them about all that had happened after the first beating.”
Battling her fears
Tay’s fear was that if she complained about the abuse, it could lead to more abuse as well as her mobile phone being seized from her, hence denying her any chance of communicating with her family or the Canada-based activist group, This Is Lebano.
She feared the worse—death, considering the level of abuse she was being subjected to. But as fate would have it, Tay had to embrace her fears.
“I’m scared. I’m scared; they might kill me,” she said, in a voice note to This Is Lebano.It’s obvious that Tay regretted her decision to leave Ghana.
The news of the tragic death of Tay sent great shivers throughout Ghana, particularly in the media. Tay could not meet her wish of not dying in a foreign land. What she feared actually became her fate in a foreign land, where she had gone to seek greener pastures.
Tay’sdeath illustrates the high risks associated with the journeys to the Gulf Country, particularly for young girls who go there to do domestic works. Tay’s tragic death is only one out of many who die either trying to reach the Gulf Countries or in the hands of abusive masters when they reach the Gulf countries.
Tay is not the first domestic worker to have died in the manner in which she died. According Lebanon’s General Security Intelligence Agency, two migrants (domestic workers) die each week in the country. Many are said to have fallen from high buildings during failed escape attempts, or in cases that are ruled suicides.
Lebanon has about 250,000 domestic workers. Many of these domestic workers are under the country’s kafala system, which ties their legal residence to their employer, making it very difficult for them to end their contracts. There are reports that many of the domestic workers who are unable to escape abuse and maltreatment in their employers’ homes commit suicide.
A concerned journalist
Solomon Mensah, a journalist with the Media General is one journalist who passionately followed Tay’s story. For him, “Faustina Tay suffered abuse, cried for justice till she died and the world could not just look on unconcerned.”
On how the case was handled, Solomon said: “I was disappointed on both sides of governments (Lebanon and Ghana” adding that “I think that Ghana could have threatened pulling the breaks on diplomatic relations with Lebanon until they rightly investigate exactly how the young lady died.”
According to him, an investigation he did into the issue revealed that there is a network of human traffickers who lure girls such as Tayto the Gulf States.
“I was reliably told by a Ghanaian lady in Lebanon that at the Kotoka International Airport, they (girls) were not taken through the normal process of check-in. Some of them didn’t even have yellow fever card but they managed to fly them to Lebanon,” Solomon explained.
For him, “We – government – must be able to make the systems work where no one is able to beat immigration.”
On how to stop the practice of young girls travelling to the Gulf Countries, Solomon suggested that “Ghana must be diplomatically assertive at times to go head-to-head with any country (despite their military or economic might) to demand justice.”
He added “We must value the lives of our citizens and so when any of them gets into trouble, in other countries, we go to their rescue with grit.”
Ghana’s Foreign Affair Ministry
When Madam Rita Enyonam Dakudie at the Public Affairs Departmentof the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was contacted on the issue, she said the Ministry was not aware of the Tay’scase and gave an assurance that the Ministry would look into the matter.
There is currently no statistics on the number of Ghanaians living in the Gulf States. And there is no data on those who are either abused or killed. And sadly, the Ghanaian government has not done much to demand justice for many of these Ghanaian nationals who are abused in the Gulf Countries.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), at least 60,000 migrants have died since the year 2000.
Similarly, since the beginning of 2014, IOM has recorded the deaths and disappearances of over 22,500 migrants and has explained that the death rate has increased at the Mediterranean region from 1.2 per cent in the first half of 2016, to 2.1 per cent in the first half of 2017.
While Tay may not be the first and the last to suffer this fate, there is the need for the Ghanaian government to create the necessary awareness on the dangers in irregular migration. This is because a stitch in time obviously will save the thousands of souls Ghana and for that matter, Africa, continues to reduce.
By Benedicta Gyimaah Folley