Labor inspectors in Qatar tasked with monitoring the living conditions of workers here have been documenting more than two dozen infractions each week, newly released statistics show.
On average, investigators are finding more than one transgression during every inspection they conduct.
That’s according to a tally of figures released monthly by the Ministry of Development, Planning and Statistics, which provides one of the most detailed breakdowns on enforcement activities to date.
Between March and August, the government conducted 709 inspections of labor accommodations and found 827 violations.
The inspections come as the living and working conditions of laborers in Qatar is being intensely scrutinized as the country ramps up construction of major transportation projects, infrastructure and stadiums ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Additionally, inspectors reported 180 cases of “enforced evacuation of labor accommodations,” although it’s not clear what precise action was taken.
While no details were released about the nature of the offenses, problems with workers’ accommodations in Qatar have been well-documented by several human rights groups.
Overcrowding, lack of clean water, mold, broken air conditioners and bunk beds – a violation of local laws – were observed by Human Rights Watch officials in 2012.
Last November, François Crépeau – the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants – shared similar observations, saying after one visit to a labor camp that the “whole setting was a dump.”
Over the past year, the Qatar government has promised to introduce stricter accommodation standards for workers, as well as hire more labor inspectors.
However, experts say simply recording violations and introducing new rules is unlikely to improve the living conditions of the country’s growing blue-collar population.
“A lot of the laws here are very good,” Nick McGeehan, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, told Doha News.
“But what is happening if there are widespread violations? Are (employers) being prosecuted in a timely fashion? Will the workers be compensated?”
McGeehan said employers and labor camp operators need to clearly understand the country’s laws and what is expected of them. Additionally, they need to face consequential penalties for violating the rules, which would act as a deterrent, he said.
There have been few, if any, disclosed cases of enforcement action against labor camp operators in Qatar.
“(The authorities) need to prosecute individuals and hold them to account,” McGeehan added. “We’d like to see evidence of progress.”
Behind the numbers
The country’s labor accommodations investigators appear to be busy, conducting an average of 3.85 inspections a day.
However, McGeehan said those figures immediately raise more questions, such as whether the inspections were random or were following up on complaints. Additionally, he said he’d like to know what became of the citations – nearly 4.5 were recorded each day – and what penalties were levied.
Human Rights Watch asked the Ministry of Labor to explain the steps inspectors take when they find housing violations as part of the advocacy organization’s research behind its 2012 report. Government officials did not directly respond to the question, saying only that there are minimum standards in place that are subject to inspection.
The location of many housing camps for blue-collar expats has also been problematic.
Thousands of men working here without their families have been shifted from Doha to the Industrial Area in the past three years, following the implementation of a 2011 ban on working-class “bachelors” that stopped them from living in residential neighborhoods.
Following several visits to Qatar, McGeehan said he was struck by how “ramshackle and makeshift” many laborer accommodations appear, particularly in the Industrial Area.
“They are in the middle of concrete factories and garages. It’s not a residential zone … (and) it doesn’t seem to be particularly healthy.”
However, developers have been constructing more purpose-built accommodations for workers.
One of the largest examples is Barwa al Baraha, which was scheduled to open this summer and eventually house some 53,000 individuals when the sprawling complex is fully completed.
However, a typical bedroom on the site is designed for six people and furnished with three bunk beds, which appears to be inconsistent with current accommodation standards. Still, a Barwa official previously told Doha News that “whatever the government standards are, we’ll abide by it.”
Adding to problems about the quantity and quality of labor inspections and accommodations is a looming housing shortfall for workers.
The impending lack of rooms could put pressure on employers to try to squeeze more workers into already overcrowded accommodations.
Locally based Al-Asmakh Real Estate Development recently projected that the country would need more than 500,000 additional beds for laborers in the coming years for the country’s growing work force.
However, by its calculations, the labor camps planned and under construction can only accommodate 100,000 additional individuals.
Here’s a copy of the August report released by the MDSP:
It is good they are doing these inspections but to make them stick they need to prosecute the sponsors/owners. I know some will say that it is the expat management to blame but if you own at least 51% of a business you are the majority shareholder and are responsible. This will force sponsors to be more closely involved in the businesses that use their name and also increase Qatari participation in the private sector.
A win for all parties.
School curriculum should also be modified to include this data. The upcoming generation should look back at these days as the “bad old days” and be educated to ensure they don’t happen again. Every society that modernizes has ugly times; Qatar has the unique position in history to have the knowledge that it doesn’t have to sacrifice people for property. (Something that slave-owning America took a long time to learn.)
why not blame both the owner and the management ?
A company can provide good accommodation. But most of the labors are misusing their accommodation which they can’t consider as their own house. They will throw waste around the premises, not cleaning their rooms, eating food on bed and inviting cockroaches to their bed, not shutting down the water pipes and switch off electric appliances and all facilities rough using. These nasty elements must be punished by the ministry and send them jail for destroying public property and government water & electricity.
No need to criticize the above article, I have so many naked proofs with me. If you want the proof, go to Industrial area and examine any of the building which are one year old.
It’s to do with lack of education. These poor guys are plucked from the poorest sectors of their society most times. Often but not always illiterate. They are packed together like sardines with total strangers, possibly different dialects and languages. It only takes one person to not pull their weight, leave waste lying around, eat on their beds, invite cockroaches (???). Then the rest lose heart. They work long long hours have very little time to cook/eat/wash with dozens of men queueing up to use what very few facilities there are. So no wonder the facilities get worn out quickly.
You only have to look at the stats for the new facilities at Barwa to realise the same will happen there because of over crowding.
This is not concern about poor and rich, but civilization. Before coming to Qatar, they are doing the above habits in their houses ?? never. Because that is their house and this is their management owned houses being their enemy. These people are minority in their camp and the majority workers are suffering from these nasty elements.
Those that invite cockroaches into their bed should be prosecuted for illicit relations. Too much of this stuff going on in Qatar.
Unless they married them first.
Cockroaches are costly and royal food in Far East countries especially in China. If you have in bulk, it can export to get foreign currency. You know, bed is a multy- purpose instrument.
Good on them for inspecting, now what is the penalty and how is it helping improve conditions and remedy the situation?
This is good news, if they weren’t serious about making a change, they wouldn’t be inspecting and accumulating data that will necessitate change. Obviously it would be great to have sudden change, but that’s not realistic. I think the problem will be forcing companies to change, which will cost them money, where many of the numerous construction related companies are already on the edge as they continue to compete for the same projects.
The Crown should sue the offending companies with proceeds going to the people who have been forced to live in such squalor!
Sorry but the usual smoke and mirrors. No information on specific violations found, no details of any actions taken with penalties incurred by the guilty companies.
Its nice to know that inspections are being carried out and lots of shortcomings noticed about this companies but the big question is, if anything at all is being done to take corrective action and to remedy the situation
So essentially every company they inspect is in violation of the labor laws?
In other words, the data suggests that the mistreatment of workers is the norm here in Qatar?
That seems to go against the party line of only a few subcontractors are to blame for poor working conditions….
53000 people. 6 men per room. Will each room have their own toilet facilities? Even if they did 6 men to one bathroom is a squeeze.
What is the ratio of men per kitchen?
I do think its great to see projects like this going up. But already it is not enough. Last year they knew it was not enough. But still we don’t hear of other housing project coming on board to deal with this crisis which for the past 7 years has been continually mooted.
It’s 2014 and they already anticipate an accommodation shortage for the influx due in for 2022. So surely now is the time to get cracking on it.
Why does it take so long to sort out?
As the article suggests there is a disconnect between the Barwa plan and the law. Rules on labour accommodation are
– no more than 4 to a room
– no bunk beds
– 4m2 free space per worker
– minimum of one toilet for 8 workers
There is no specification for the ratio of men to kitchens.
So it looks as though the Barwa development will only accommodate 35,000 men ……oops!
“However, a typical bedroom on the (Barwa) site is designed for six people and furnished with three bunk beds, which appears to be inconsistent with current accommodation standards. Still, a Barwa official previously told Doha News that “whatever the government standards are, we’ll abide by it.” Tells you exactly the level of fear of enforcement that the employers live under when they commission a new facility that breaks the regulations.
Accommodation Standards are only one part of the story. What about the food provided to them? It is heard for long time that it will be mandatory for the companies to engage a professional catering company to provide food to their employees, instead of paying them allowances or allowing them to cook at the site, which is very non-hygienic and risk of fire.
The accommodations should have a common dining areas. If the proper dining areas are provided, then the workers will not take their food to their bed rooms. Thus we can solve the problems of pests such as cockroaches, rats, etc.