Amnesty: Workers in Qatar going hungry after not being paid for a year

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Lance Cenar

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Dozens of construction workers who had been contracted to do fit outs on Al Bidda Tower in Doha’s West Bay financial district are in dire straits because they have not been paid for months and can no longer afford to eat, Amnesty International has announced.

On the occasion of International Migrants’ Day, which coincides with Qatar’s National Day, the human rights group has called on the country to help the 80-some men, who hail from Nepal, China, Nigeria, the Philippines and Bangladesh.

According to Amnesty, locally based Lee Trading and Contracting (LTC) has not paid the men their monthly wages in nearly a year, and are collectively owed QR1.5 million ($411,000).

The workers had filed cases in the Labor Court to reclaim their wages, but their claims were stalled after being asked to pay $165 (QR600) each to pay for an expert report, a fee that the court refused to waive.

The rights group, which released a damning report on the working and living conditions of low-income expats in Qatar last month, added that under the labor law here, workers are exempted from paying such fees.

Struggling to eat

The constructions workers had been contracted to complete the interior of two floors of Al Bidda tower, which they finished in October. They were provided QR250 ($69) in food allowances until then, and now, without wages or the allowance, have been relying on handouts to eat.

Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s Secretary General, said in a statement:

“They have not had been paid for nearly a year and can’t even buy food to sustain themselves on a day-to-day basis. They also can’t afford to send money back home to their families or to pay off debts.

“The Qatari government must step in now and end this crisis. The men have told us they simply want to collect the unpaid wages they are owed and to leave the country. The Ministries of Labour and Interior must deliver that as soon as possible. Doing so will signal that the government really means what it says about protecting workers’ rights.”

Qatar has been in the international spotlight over its treatment of migrant workers, which the country is increasingly relying on for big infrastructure projects ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

Demographics is a sensitive issue in Qatar, where nationals make up less than 15 percent of the population, and are vastly outnumbered by hundreds of thousands of low-income Asian workers. Some residents view these expats as a nuisance.

Balancing act

Just last week, members of Qatar’s only elected body, the Central Municipal Council, urged the staggering of days off for this group, because when they congregate together on Fridays, they “threaten law and order and hygiene.”

And today, several men without their families expressed disappointment at being turned away from Corniche parade festivities on National Day. Referring to the theme of this year’s QND, which is “One Love,” Chris Lorenz posted on Facebook:

Where is the “One LOVE ” motto of this year. This morning I woke-up too early about 5:30am and went to the corniche, but with a big regret that securities dont allowed a lot of bachelor’s to go to corniche.even i showed my Government employee ID, still not allowed… i really disappointed with it. so guys if your a bachelor dont waste your time going to corniche.

On Twitter, others also mentioned being turned away:

What have your experiences been like today? Thoughts?

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