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Anti-Racism Movement is a grassroots movement created by young activists in Lebanon, in collaboration with migrant community leaders. Together they work on documenting, investigating, exposing and fighting racist practices in Lebanon through various initiatives and campaigns.
The movement was launched in 2010 following an incident at one of Beirut’s most renowned private beach resorts where domestic workers were denied access to the pool. Activists, using a hidden camera, filmed a few minutes of the administration’s blatant acts of discrimination and segregation. The video quickly spread online, and Anti-Racism Movement efforts to bring this issue to light were lauded by many. Interest grew in this small volunteer-based movement, and the projects grew in scope and scale. Shortly it became a registered NGO in order to increase its capacity to plan and act through projects and campaigns.
Its Migrant Community Center (MCC) first opened in 2011 in Nabaa area in Beirut, then moved to Gemmayze two years later. This is a unique space managed by migrant workers for migrant workers. It offers a safe haven and a support system away from abuse and harsh work conditions. It hosts community events and dinners. Volunteers offer English and French classes, as well as courses in computer sciences and playing guitar.
Due to its success, another center was opened in Saida, Southern Lebanon in February 2016 to serve the migrant workers away from Beirut.
Although Anti-Racism Movement does not officially work with refugees in terms of direct services due to lack of resources and capacities, it documents and follows up all incidents of discrimination in Lebanon, including what Syrian refugees are enduring. The MCC is catered more towards migrant communities, and specifically domestic workers, yet it is open to all and it has many Syrian members, refugees or male migrant workers.
Anti-Racism Movement stands for the rights of the migrant workers from Asia and Africa because they are not a priority for the politicians nor the international donors of the country who focus on the influx of Syrian Refugees.
Most of migrant workers are women employed as domestic workers in Lebanese households. According to the International Labour Organisation, there are at the very least 250,000 migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, a country of 4 million people. They make up one of the most vulnerable demographic groups, mostly due to exploitative policies. They are excluded from the Lebanese labour laws and governed instead by the oppressive sponsorship or Kafala system, considered by human rights activists as modern-day slavery. The migrant workers suffer the absence of legal protection and basic rights like freedom of movement and ability to change employers. Many face widespread discriminatory practices in many public and private institutions such as restaurants, banks and airlines, and are subject to physical abuse that could lead to suicide.
More than 100 nongovernmental organisations, including Anti-Racism Movement, called the Lebanese authorities to recognize the Domestic Workers's Union announced in January. Meanwhile the movement continues to pressurize the government to amend the abusive legal structures. It also focuses on shifting mentalities and attitudes; at schools, universities and youth centers. Some work is done in direct actions, protests and fundraising to help migrant women in need of legal and financial assistance, as well as celebrating cultural events such as the Ethiopian new year.
Through role playing, interactive games, film screenings, discussions and debates, school children, both public and private, are incited to consider domestic workers as equal humans.
Unfortunately, not all schools have been responsive. One school headmaster in Beirut for instance cancelled a session on discrimination because the topic is "too touchy" and "cannot risk creating problems with students' parents". However the organisation continues to work hard and some of the latest activities took place in Tyre and Baalbeck.
Last updated: August 2016