Despite pledges to improve its labor conditions, Qatar has made minimal progress over the past year in tackling the widespread abuse of migrant workers by their sponsors, an Amnesty International researcher has said.
Representatives of the human rights advocacy organization returned to Qatar earlier this month to assess the labor landscape a year and a half after releasing a comprehensive report titled The Dark Side of Migration.
That 2013 investigation was based on interviews with 200 male construction workers and more than a dozen conversations with government officials.
It documented cases of unpaid wages, employers failing to renew their workers’ residency permits, unsanitary living conditions and other forms of mistreatment.
At the time, Amnesty called on Qatar to abolish the country sponsorship (kafala) and scrap rules that require expats to obtain their employer’s permission to change jobs or leave the country, among other recommendations.
Representatives of Amnesty, which has warned Qatar that it is running out of time to introduce meaningful reforms ahead of the 2022 World Cup, said they were not heartened by their latest visit to the country.
“It’s already very clear that very little has changed,” Amnesty researcher Mustafa Qadri told Doha News.
“We interviewed hundreds of workers who haven’t been paid for months and don’t have valid IDs. It’s not their fault. It’s the fault of their employers,” he added.
Detention center visit
Qadri’s two-week trip to Qatar included a visit to a local deportation center where expats arrested by the Ministry of Interior’s (MOI) Search and Follow-up Department are held.
He said he met a Nigerian engineer who told Qadri that he had paid the equivalent of several thousand dollars to a recruiter in order to come to Qatar. However, he said there was no job waiting for him when he arrived and that his sponsor failed to obtain a residency permit for him.
The man said he found another employer who was interested in hiring him, but his original sponsor refused to grant him a no-objection certificate and reported him to authorities, who arrested him.
“There are people who just want to work (and) be paid the money (they) were promised,” Qadri said.
The Qatar Tribune, citing Qatar’s state news agency, reported on Qadri’s visit to the detention center in a front-page article today titled, “Amnesty hails MOI’s human rights record.”
Qadri took issue with how his visit was portrayed:
Qatar Tribune fabricated quote of me. Shameful propaganda not journalism, who are you fooling? Certainly not 1000s workers abused each day
— Mustafa Qadri (@Mustafa_Qadri) March 15, 2015
Over a dozen migrants stuck in deportation centre all spoke of trauma, lost earnings and other abuse due to Kafala and other failings #Qatar
— Mustafa Qadri (@Mustafa_Qadri) March 15, 2015
However, the report did note that Qatar is working to help some of those who have been detained unfairly. An MOI brigadier said his department had purchased plane tickets for more than 5,000 expats to be sent home, but did not say in what time period.
Qadri said many abuses of workers in Qatar continue to be perpetrated by recruitment and manpower firms, which he argued lack adequate oversight.
Amnesty has previously noted that the lax enforcement of existing policies for recruiting and employing migrant workers enable the “widespread” abuse of construction workers by both Qatari and foreign business owners.
Some organizations – namely Qatar Foundation and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which is overseeing the construction of the country’s World Cup stadiums and training facilities – have attempted to address this issue through so-called workers’ charters.
These documents prescribe minimum living, working and recruitment standards for contractors working on the organizations’ projects. They include a ban on firms and their subcontractors using the services of recruiters who make workers pay fees, misinform them about the living and working conditions in Qatar or fail to provide an original offer of employment to expats.
Qadri said that while the efforts are welcome, many of the standards “should be expected.”
“You shouldn’t be praised for doing basic things.”
He added that the charters rolled out by QF and the Supreme Committee only apply to a fraction of Qatar’s construction-sector workforce and are no substitute for national standards.
However, FIFA President Sepp Blatter highlighted these standards as “progress” following a meeting with Qatar’s Emir today ahead of a FIFA executive committee meeting next week in Zurich.
“It is encouraging to hear the Emir’s personal commitment to workers’ welfare and to get a sense of the improvements planned for all workers in Qatar,” Blatter said in a statement.
“It is clear that Qatar takes its responsibility as host seriously and sees the FIFA World Cup as a catalyst for positive social change.”
Finally, Qadri noted that the government officials Amnesty recently met with gave no timeline for the implementation of Qatar’s long-awaited changes to the country’s sponsorship system.
Last May, officials proposed making it easier for expats to leave the country and change jobs, but have yet to officially make the changes – which human rights advocates argued fell short of what’s required to protect the rights of migrants.
“There’s no justification for the delay,” Qadri said.
“Unless urgent steps are taken, when people marvel at all the buildings and developments in 2022, (they’ll see structures) built on the backs of a lot of misery.”
So when The Emir recently told the British Prime Minister that “significant improvements have been made” what exactly did he mean, because in my book a pledge to improve does not mean an improvement has been achieved?
He meant, “I’m mulling a bunch of stuff”.
DN, cover the news about the expat sentenced to 7 years in jail and is all over the Arabic news papers.
Also the information below is connected to this article
What was he convicted of?
Writing a poem about the a royal…..whilst burning to death of children gets you a free ticket to luxury in Belgium.
There will be a time when all of these false promises made by Qatar authorities are gonna put them to a trial. A lot of these lies and false promises have not only been counter productive for its reputation worldwide but also focused unwanted attention to many smaller issues.
Qatar, you have to show the world that improvements are not just on paper but are actually happening. Walk your talk.
Who’s going to put them to a trial?
A metaphorical reference indicating that no one is gonna take their updates seriously.
very well said !
Qatar will be put on trial only when the gas runs out, and on reflection not even then because they’ll own half of the western world.
Naw. They won’t turn up. They will be holidaying in Belgium.
Mulling, mulling, mulling 🙂
So frustrating when these organizations insist on telling it like it is despite the offer of big fat cheques, why can’t everyone be like septic blatter & his FIFA & just take the money & keep quiet? So much easier for everyone involved,except of course,for the low income workers in question,but nothing to worry about there.
I think I’ll file that under my “not surprised” category.
Well what do we expect, justice is screwed in this country. A convicted criminal can represent Qatar at the highest level abroad, the defence in a murder case is the woman drunk too much so somehow she deserved to be murdered and they passed a law if you insult the flag you go to jail.
To think the business owners, (who are the government) want to release their grip and hold over their employees is naive. Let’s talk and then hope the world’s attention goes somewhere else.
I’m curious if you have ever followed high profile trials in the U.S., like O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, and the likes. The defense will use whatever argument is at their disposal to try to acquit their client.
As for absurd laws, nah, too easy 😉
OJ was over 20 years ago and it wasn’t the best example of American justice, however when he was subsequently found guilty of another crime the President of the US did not appoint him Ambassador to Qatar…..
Miscarraiges of justice happen in all countries but here I am afraid it is a common occurence. A Nepalese teacher accused by two Qatari children of insulting Islam ends up in jail? First they take the word of two kids and throw him in jail and second what sort of law is that and how do you define it?
What about the Al Jazeera cases, two years they were trapped in Qatar, what about the French football player, again trapped for two years as the justice system works against him and it goes on.
I’m a supporter of Qatar but the justice system is on its knees and needs radical reform. The explosion in population means more cases and legal code needs bringing up to date for a modern nation.
Yes indeed. But, At least they go to trial publicly and are openly ridiculed when obviously a farce. Not system is perfect. But if there is transparency and freedom of press and expression, there is always hope for truth sometime in the future.
I think you’ve missed my point, which was about the tactics and arguments put forth by defense lawyers, not about the legal system itself. No argument from my end that there is a lack of transparency in many areas in Qatar, or that the legal system fails a lot of people.
You forgot about that poor woman who fell on a knife and got stabbed.
‘What Do We Want?’
‘When Do We Want It?’
‘Tomorrow… maybe… insha’Allah…’
How is this news?
I think Qatar should not be allowed to host the 2022 World Cup if they are not going to step up immediately and improve the working and living conditions of the workers who are building all the structures for this event and of course also for all workers who are working on other projects. I wish I could do something about this. ..but I feel helpless. The only thing I do to feel better is to give a tip to every low -income worker that crosses my way and helps me in any way.
a shameful lack of progress. Is there a lack of will, or reluctance to act upon the Emir’s directive?
All of the above.
Directive? That’s one way of describing it.
Obviously there seem to be a number of layers to this and while they try and peel away some and deal with injustices, I wonder how the recruitment agencies can continue with approval to bring workers here if they can be found non-compliant or just scam artists.
Those ridiculous 1000 Qr. salaries now MUST be actually paid into a bank account,or at least we have passed a law requiring it,isn’t that a HUGE,MASSIVE step forward?! It took us a few decades to mull over & finally push that one through,so please,give credit where it’s due.
Seems there is a 6 month grace period for this..so private businesses can still mull over and abuse low wage employees!
Yes but who is going to enforce it? No one. Worthless.
Check today Gulf Times newspaper. That Septic Bladder has no sense of decency whatsoever, in his mind everything is perfect with blue-collar expats.
Well said u are a real man mr qadri love ur words thanks for ur efforts love u really !!!
The simple – and only ethical – solution is to let people work wherever they want and exit permits for all. Let the market sort it out. The rest is just talk.
Really ? But the Emir told Obama otherwise? Qatar should buy Amnesty, problem solved.
Its a very sad story and its been going on for decades. There is no justice whatsoever for the poor labourers BUILDING the country, SLAVING away in the heat and at such a low wage while the ‘ROYALS’ are busy travelling the world in private jets with their beloved families and not having to do a days work!
Are they not humans? Qatar needs to prioritise itself! They’re busy bribing fifa officials, buying harrods, pathetically trying to be famous, going on useless shopping sprees and god knows what else!
Its absolutely disgusting and I pray the day comes when they will be questioned for their actions. QATAR DOES NOT HAVE HUMAN RIGHTS…..period!