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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 June 2007, 08:51 GMT 09:51 UK
Burundian's ordeal in Lebanon
Ethiopians camping outside the UNHCR offices (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in Beirut
Many Africans worked in Lebanon as domestic workers before the war
Burundi's courts are investigating the alleged trafficking of young Burundian girls and women. Magistrate Arcade Niyongabo has told the BBC many of them think they are seeking asylum in Europe, but end up working as gardeners, maids or prostitutes in Lebanon.

He says about 30 Burundians are still in Lebanon but he thinks the number could be much higher because many change their names before leaving.

A 24-year-old Burundian woman who has returned from her ordeal in Lebanon tells the BBC her story:

It was in 2003 when many young girls were going to Lebanon.

There was little difference between prostitution and working as a maid because even when you chose house work, you would often be raped

I was an orphan and did not have a job. I wanted to get money to continue my studies and help my younger sisters.

Somebody came and told me that there were good job opportunities in Lebanon.

The person introduced me to a Lebanese man who was dealing with sending young girls to Lebanon. He got me a passport and sent me to Lebanon.

I had no parents to tell. I told my friends that I was leaving for Lebanon. They encouraged me to go saying those who had left earlier were sending pictures showing they were fine and well treated.

I thought I was also going to prosper

There were five of us when we left. They changed our names and gave us Congolese passports.

At the airport [in Lebanon] we were taken into a big room where your future boss would come to pick you.

We were given two options: to become a prostitute or to do house work.

Salary cut

There were so many girls from different countries... Ethiopia, the Philippines, from all over.

Ethiopian evacuee embraces friend she's leaving behind
African migrant workers were stranded in Lebanon during the bombing

The boss would come up and call your name, and take you home once you came forward.

You'd never know again what would happen to your friends. You would not see them again.

What we were being told and shown was totally wrong.

First of all they refused to pay me the amount we had agreed before I left.

When we arrived home, my boss told me I would be paid $50 a month whilst before I left we agreed I would be paid $100.

After three months, I asked for my payments so that I could send money to my brothers and sisters.

My boss gave me only $150. I complained I should be given $300. She said I was being paid $50 a month.

I had nowhere to go or turn to in the strange country. I asked for the contact number of the person who had sent me to Lebanon. She refused to give it to me.

Once she was not at home, I went to a public phone nearby and called my best friend in Burundi.


I told her my wages had been cut by half and that the work was so huge.

It was a big house with several storeys and I had to tend the gardens as well.

But she said I should continue working.

We went through lots of ordeals.

The husband or son of the lady I worked for would often rape me. And there was no way you could complain: I felt they would not hesitate to kill me.

You just kept quiet. We were often beaten and tortured. They chose food for us, they would decide the clothes that we would put on, but being beaten was the most common practice.

There was little difference between prostitution and working as a maid because even when you chose house work, you would often be raped there.

And the prostitutes would not receive any money from their sex buyers. The money was paid to their boss.

I spent three years there until war broke out [between Israel and Lebanon last year].

We had to run away. At the end of my three year contract, I demanded to go home.

My boss paid me half of the money she ought to have given me. Then she deducted $700 for my ticket to Lebanon from Bujumbura. I was left with very little money.

At the airport I found my visa had been extended for another year. The agency that employed me said I could only leave in 2007.

It was a Friday.

I insisted that I leave. In the end the exit visa was changed and the next Sunday, I left and here I am.

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