In our efforts to extract chaff from the wind, Kairo News launched full investigation into allegations leveled against a Gambian-Lebanese businessman. Mr. Ali Mohamed Raif Fneiche is accused of conspiring with three others to lure Gambians into Lebanon so they could exploit them or sell them for prostitution. Mr. Fneiche, who is currently in Lebanon, flatly denied the story.
Kairo News spread its arm of investigation. In that frantic efforts were made to talk to Gambian girls who were brought in Lebanon as domestic workers, their friends and family members in The Gambia. Most of the girls refused to talk. But all those who spoke, including those in The Gambia, cleared Mr. Fneiche of any wrongdoing. They however begged to remain anonymous.
“I have a lot of my friends in Lebanon who have been brought there by Uncle Ali; they are doing decent domestic jobs. They send money back home. I have not heard any complaint of prostitution; only those girls who quit their jobs and ran away have been accusing Uncle Ali of selling them,” said a girl in The Gambia.
“We work as domestic workers, although the work is hard but we are surviving. Some employers treat you like a slave and even refuse to send you to the hospital when you are sick. Uncle Ali brought us here legally,” said a Gambian domestic worker. “It is not true that we are being used as prostitutes.”
One woman accused her employer of not paying her on time. “He sometimes struggles to pay me,” she alleged, refuting allegations of using them as prostitutes. “I can swear to the Quran that we are not being used as prostitutes. I don’t know any Gambian who is a prostitute here.”
Some of the Gambian domestic workers denied signing contact with their employers.
None of the Gambian women wanted to return home if given the opportunity. “I am an uneducated divorcee who is working hard for my children to have good education. I am working for my children. I was attending a hairdressing salion in Senegal but returned to The Gambia to take advantage of the Lebanon opportunity,” one woman said.
Ironically, none of the disgruntled girls would accept our request for an interview. They neither received our calls nor responded to our text messages.
Every year, more than 250,000 foreign domestic workers are legally admitted in Lebanon, according to official statistics.