An employee of Lebanon's national airline MEA was sacked after a passenger complained in a social media campaign that the worker humiliated travellers from the Philippines.
Lebanese airport worker sacked for 'humiliating Filipinos'
BEIRUT // An official said yesterday that an employee of Lebanon's national airline MEA was sacked after a passenger complained in a social media campaign that the worker humiliated travellers from the Philippines at the Beirut airport and told them over the loudspeaker, "Filipino people, stop talking".
The incident is part of what human-rights groups say is widespread discrimination and abuse of foreign workers in Lebanon. More than 200,000 women from Asia and Africa work as maids in the country of four million people, said Nadim Houry, a researcher in Lebanon for the New York-based group Human Rights Watch.
In recent years, the foreign maids' work conditions have come under increasing scrutiny in Lebanon. Some private beaches have barred foreign workers, and not all have complied with a tourism ministry directive earlier this year to halt such practices, Mr Houry said.
He lauded the social media campaign protesting Saturday's airport incident, calling it a sign of change. "The latest incident shows that more and more people in Lebanon are angry and tired of this racism that exists," Mr Houry said.
"What we have been missing are concrete new policies, a new enforcement mechanism to put an end to it," he added. "It is no longer the time for nice words."
Abed Shaheen, a Lebanese businessman based in Dubai, witnessed Saturday's incident while waiting to board a flight at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport. The flight was delayed and passengers, including about two dozen domestic workers from Asia, were talking among themselves, he said.
A woman staffing the counter at the gate announced on a loudspeaker "Filipino people, stop talking", Mr Shaheen said. He said the woman's male colleague corrected her, telling her the travellers were from Nepal, and the woman proceeded to admonish the group twice more, giggling as she did so.
Mr Shaheen complained but said he said he was told by two members of the ground staff that they would do as they please.
He later launched a protest campaign on Facebook and Twitter and sent an email to MEAG, an MEA subsidiary that handles ground services. Mr Shaheen said he received a call from a senior official in MEAG and was promised the company would investigate.
Yesterday, MEA said on its Facebook page that it investigated Saturday's incident, which it portrayed as an isolated case of "misbehaviour" by an MEAG passenger service agent.
The airline said severe disciplinary action has been taken, but did not elaborate. An MEA official said the woman was sacked, and that disciplinary action was being considered against her male colleague. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the case with the media.