Qatar FM: Country not afraid to fix mistakes on labor rights

Khalid Al Attiyah

Marc Müller/Wikimedia

A new independent report examining working and living conditions for low-income expats in Qatar will be released soon, the country’s foreign minister said this weekend during an official visit to Germany.

The report was commissioned by Qatar to international firm DLA Piper last fall, following widespread international media coverage of labor abuses here.

According to FM Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, the point of the report is “not to polish the image of Qatar,” but to upgrade the standard of living of its workforce, as required by the nation’s constitution.

QNA reports him as saying:

“The Constitution of the State of Qatar requires the treatment of employees and workers at a level befitting their humanity…

We do not fear that there might be mistakes, but we do not accept that work on the correction of such mistakes is not done, because our main objective is to develop our country to the level which calls for valuable humanity which it always deserves.”

Al Attiyah’s remarks come days after European Parliament officials visited Qatar to observe workers’ accommodations and working conditions. They told reporters that high-level Qatari officials had promised “deep revisions” of the country’s labor system imminently.

Because Qatar has been talking about reforming its restrictive kafala (sponsorship) system for years, many greeted this news with skepticism. But Al Attiyah also made a reference to upcoming changes in Germany yesterday, saying:

“Everyone will be astonished for the steps taken by Qatar and what it will be doing to correct mistakes, if there are any.”

It is not clear exactly when DLA Piper’s report will be released to the public. Speaking to Doha News on Thursday, a representative at the firm’s Qatar office said he did not have any details, as the London branch is handling the review. Employees there could not be reached for comment.

Reaction

Labor abuses in Qatar such as the flouting of construction site safety rules, withholding of passports and unsanitary living conditions have been documented by several international advocacy groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations.

Qatar officials have responded to these reports with mixed emotions. Some have blasted international media as participating in a “political conspiracy” against the Gulf state, which is hosting the 2022 World Cup.

Others have said changes are afoot – for example, the country is hiring more translators and labor inspectors to ensure the law is being followed, and is also in the process of revamping how workers are paid so that wages are delivered on time.

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About Shabina S. Khatri

Shabina S. Khatri is the editor of Doha News. She holds dual bachelor's degrees in Business Administration and Spanish from the University of Michigan, a Masters of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University, has previously taught at NU-Q, and worked for the Wall Street Journal and the Detroit Free Press.

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