Like many domestic workers in Beirut, Hanna was laid off from her job in recent months because of the country’s deep economic crisis.
The 21-year-old lives in a small room in Lebanon’s capital city with six other Ethiopian women. When Beirut’s devastating blast hit on Tuesday evening, it blew out their door and all their windows.
“We weren’t home at the time, so we are safe,” Hanna said, speaking to CNN on the condition that her full name wasn’t used. But now, she said, “anyone in the street can walk through the door and find us sleeping. We are afraid.”
Hanna and her six roommates are just some of the thousands-strong mainly African domestic worker population living in Lebanon. Some of them were swept up in the explosion that left a 10-kilometer circle of destruction in Beirut.
In the aftermath, rights groups are warning that this vulnerable group is facing dire situations as many of them are stranded in the country and unable to go home.
The treatment of domestic workers in Lebanon had already come under intense scrutiny in recent months. Last week, CNN reported multiple allegations of abuse by the top two officials at the Kenyan consulate in Beirut. The assistant consul denied all allegations of wrongdoing at the consulate, while the honorary consul did not respond to requests for a comment.
Lebanon’s economic crisis was exacerbated by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and domestic workers were largely considered expendable, with some dumped outside their countries’ embassies by their employers, who could no longer afford to pay their salaries.
Recently, a video surfaced online featuring a group of Nigerian women, in a room, making a direct appeal to the camera, and pleading with their government to rescue them.
The veracity of the video was confirmed to CNN by Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who is the Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, a government agency that oversees diaspora affairs.
She told CNN the women had been reached before the explosion and were in a safe location.
“We will be evacuating them on August 12,” Dabiri-Erewa added. They will be repatriated to Nigeria alongside another 150 others in Lebanon, she also confirmed on Twitter.
For many migrant workers in Beirut, the destruction of Tuesday’s blast added one more reason to quit the country.
Aster Kidane, an Ethiopian migrant employed as a domestic worker in Beirut, told CNN that she was sweeping the floor when the explosion shattered windows. Glass shards left her cut and bruised but she w