Foreign cleaners banned from Beirut swimming pools

A candid camera video shot by a Lebanese anti-racism association shows that coloured people aren't authorised in several of the city's private pools. Read more and watch the video...


Sign posted at the entrance of a Beirut swimming pool. Photo posted by Ali Fakhri on the Facebook page of the Anti-Racism Movement.

A candid camera video shot by a Lebanese anti-racism association shows that coloured people aren’t permitted in several of the city’s private pools.

On July 12, two activists from the Lebanese environmental, cultural, and social activist organisation IndyAct showed up at the gate of a private pool accompanied by a female volunteer from Madagascar and a camera hidden in a bag. The employee there asked the two men who the person accompanying them was; when they responded that she was their cleaner, he refused to let her in.

More than 200,000 foreign workers, most of whom come from Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Ethiopia, are employed as servants in Lebanese homes. According to Human Rights Watch, they are frequent victims of abuse and racial discrimination.

"According some pool owners, clients would be disgusted to swim in a pool next to a black person"

Ali Latifa Fakhri is a human rights activist and member of IndyAct. He lives in Beirut.

We decided to film this with a candid camera after receiving various complaints about the treatment of coloured people in private swimming pools.

What you see in this video is not an isolated case. We contacted the managers of several swimming pools which clearly say that they do not accept black people and maids on their premises. According to some managers, clients would be disgusted about swimming in a pool next to a black person. One of the city’s main pools has even asked its members to sign a contract stipulating that they refrain from bringing "radios, cameras, and maids".

By making this video, we wanted to show that this kind of racism is rampant in Lebanon. We've had a very positive response: more than 15,000 people have viewed the video online, and it was picked up by many media channels. The tourism ministry has announced it will open an inquiry into pool regulations.

"People of colour are also barred from accessing many nightclubs"

These racist, discriminatory practices don’t only concern swimming pools. People of colour are also barred from accessing many nightclubs. We have had reports of several incidents between club bouncers and black tourists from Europe or the United States.

Although Lebanon has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I believe there is a long way to go before laws and mentalities change enough to change these apartheid-era practices. "

The membership contract of a major Beirut swimming pool. Photo taken by Ali Fakhri and published on the Facebook page of Anti-Racism Movement.

When cleaners can access the pool but not swim in it, they are checked in as "Miscellaneous", as shown on this Beirut pool entry fee sign. Photo taken by Wissam and published on his blog, Ethiopian Suicides.

Candid camera in private pool