Qatar has not taken concrete steps to end the widespread exploitation of migrant workers in the four years since it won the 2022 World Cup hosting rights, Amnesty International has said in a new report – adding that time is running out for meaningful change to be implemented.
Earlier today, the human rights organization released its assessment of the country’s efforts to improve the living and working conditions of foreign laborers, a topic of international scrutiny in the run-up to the international football tournament.
Local researchers estimate there are some 700,000 foreign laborers in Qatar, working low-income jobs in the country’s oil and gas, construction and manufacturing sectors.
That figure is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years and major infrastructure and real estate development projects pick up steam.
While there have been promises of new laws to protect migrant workers from abuse at the hands of their employers, little has changed on the ground in Qatar, Amnesty said.
Still, the group credited Qatar’s political leaders for openly acknowledging that problems exist.
The report for example referenced remarks made by the Emir, who said in an interview on CNN earlier this year that he was “personally hurt about the situation” faced by laborers in Qatar.
“That was a watershed moment, and we shouldn’t downplay that,” Amnesty researcher James Lynch told Doha News. “But it is the first stage, and haven’t seen it followed it up … We have serious concerns whether there is political will to deliver the kind of solutions that are ultimately necessary to address this problem.”
Running out of time
Amnesty, the United Nations and international law firm DLA Piper have all investigated allegations of worker mistreatment within the last year and made similar recommendations to Qatar’s leaders.
These include abolishing the exit permit system, reviewing Qatar’s sponsorship (kafala) system and ensuring workers are paid by their employers. According to Amnesty’s scorecard, no actual progress has been made in addressing any of these issues.
This is despite the fact that in May, the government announced wide-ranging reforms to the country’s labor laws, namely giving the Ministry of Interior authority to issue exit permits instead of sponsors, and limiting an employer’s power to block their employees from taking a new job.
The changes were widely panned by critics for not going far enough and, six months later, no legislation has been passed.
This week, officials have suggested that the changes, which also include requiring companies to pay workers by direct bank deposit so that late or non-existing payments can be documented, could come into effect later this year or in 2015.
“We have emotions, we feel bad,” Salah bin Ghanem bin Nasser al-Ali, Qatar’s sports minister, recently told the Associated Press.
He noted his own father worked as a 12-year-old laborer in the oil industry in “very hard conditions” that today “would be like child abuse.”
“We understand this problem. For us, it’s a human question,” he told the news agency. Qataris, he added, aren’t “vicious people who are like vampires.”
Still, Lynch said there appears to be a lack of urgency on the government’s part to roll out changes. That’s problematic because construction of stadiums, expressways and real estate projects – as well as the number of foreign laborers in Qatar – is expected to peak in the coming years.
“Time has almost run out for Qatar to deliver a World Cup that is not built on exploitation of workers,” Amnesty stated in its report.
In other areas, the human rights organization said Qatar has made partial or limited progress. This includes:
- Promising to publish the names of recruitment companies that repeatedly violate local laws;
- Introducing a multilingual electronic labor complaint system;
- Building health facilities closer to work sites;
- Phasing expats into Qatar’s national health insurance scheme (Seha); and
- Hiring more labor inspectors.
Away from the country’s construction sites, Amnesty notes that no action has been taken to better protect female domestic workers in Qatar.
Earlier this year, the organization published a report that found maids, nannies and other domestic helpers often face long working hours, violence, wage deductions or non-payment, confiscation of their passports, restrictions on leaving the property and verbal abuse.
According to Lynch, a draft law to protect domestic workers has been in discussion since 2008. Six years later, GCC states are still talking about plans to introduce new legal measures.
“People should treat announcements without timelines, without clarity in the proposals, with a degree of caution,” he said.
Time is running out? When exactly is the deadline and what is the consequence of failure?
Things run at its own pace in the middle-east and no amount of idle threats are going to force this horse to drink from the water till it wants to.
you mean camels…or donkeys
I have said it here before and I will say it again. There is neither the will nor the ability to change the system here. The construction plans are based on the current system and the system cannot be changed without diverting resources or having delays. it simply won’t happen in the way we would like to see.
Exactly! changes whether they are gradual or significant can only occur AFTER the worldcup 2o22 Event.
Of course time is not running out, Qatar can change the laws, enforce them or stay the same. The only thing that will happen is some bad newspaper articles and some damning reports from organsiations such a AI. Business will not stop here, other countries will not stop investing and FIFA will not remove the WC or it would have done so already.
Russia gets these reports about its justice system all the time and do they care, of course not.
Slow day today..
Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Can I have my 5 minutes back from reading this silly article?
Nooooo! They are not buying time…how could you think of something like this?
“Still, the group credited Qatar’s political leaders for openly acknowledging that problems exist”. I reckon that must buy at least 6 months till the next pointless pronouncement.
Isn’t that a little like acknowledging that one beats his wife when the law will do nothing about it? An admission of a problem is worthless unless accompanied by action. As fond as I am of the color blue, I will not hold my breath waiting for the change to come when there’s no incentive.
Slave trading A holes, nothing less. Glad I left and have the freedom of expression. They will be judged.
What I fail to understand is this: Kings and Princes are either respected or feared.
How can anyone respect a decision maker, if that decision maker fails his promises. It is either you are with human slavery and exploitation or you are against it. If all it takes is your word to fix that issue and you fail doing it, then you are by no means someone to be respect. How hard is it to make it a STRICT rule that any human that is exploited will have very serious consequences to the company exploiting that human. Why is it that Qatari people OK with this? We can’t assume that all people are evil and bad. I am sure LOTS of Qatari people would love equality and fairness. Why nothing ever gets done or said? Why?
Just tell me why people. Especially Qatari locals. Why don’t you demand this? It is either you agree to slavery or you don’t. What if someone does this to your kid in some other country? Would you like it? Why is it so hard to treat others as you like to be treated? This is ridiculous. The whole world think you are evil, when most of you are not. Why don’t you demand this from your Emir? I am not saying to revolt and break things. Why don’t you peacefully request this? I am sure many of you are good people.
You don’t demand anything from an Emir. That’s the quickest way to find yourself being an enemy of the State.
Well, If you can’t demand anything from the leader of any state, then the leader himself might be the enemy of his own state. The whole world is shaming Qatar. Its reputation is so bad that it makes the majority look bad. How can a leader sit and watch his whole country’s reputation go bad and not do a thing?
Arab culture is known for its generosity and mannerism and honesty and this goes back for very long time ago. Arabs were known through out history to respect their word, even if it means to sacrifice their own life. Yes it is a ruthless culture, but no culture is perfect. Something does not add up in here. I feel sorry for those who are perceived as evil, only because they can’t raise their voice.
And that is the definition of tyranny.
In a monarchy, citizens can only think freely, residents are to do what they are told. There is no equality amongst the Qatari’s, so how could anyone think there could be equality between citizens and residents.
AI has a bite with no teeth, annoying, but cannot hurt you.
At the end of the day 2022, Qatar will host the WC and nothing will have changed.
I am Korean. Abolish the exit permit system! My sponsor blocked my exit visa without any reason, so I have lost my business chance seriously. I am not your slave. I cannot understand this situation.
What a nonsense!!
I am a human being who has a right to go and come.
I complained to my colleague for this Kafala system. she was laughing and she said they are still only talking since 8 years, only in discussion, meaning not that much serious. I have some good Qatari friends. they are really kind and very good to me, but I can not understand this Kafala system like slavery system.
the country is simply trying to throw sand into the eyes of the globe by making a lot of promises! Show us the change QATAR!!!