“Malicious, fabricated and false foreign press reports” concerning the welfare of low-income expats in Qatar are the result of “political conspiracies,” Hussain Al Mulla, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, has told the Al Raya newspaper.
Responding to widespread international criticism of the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar – particularly laborers from Nepal – Al Mulla said that Qatar’s reputation is “a red line:”
“We refuse any skepticism in the keenness of the state to respect laborers’ rights, and its ability to provide adequate housing and a safe working environment.
We proved with numbers and documents that the number of Nepalese laborers’ deaths does not exceed 15 from more than 400,000 Nepalese labors working in many projects in the country, from which they transfer amounts of money to their countries that exceeds $1 billion annually.”
Al Mulla was responding to a report last month in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, which included interviews with Nepali expats here about their poor working and living conditions.
The report suggests that the alleged “slave labor” abuses raise serious questions about Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup, as many of these young men are working on projects related to the games.
Representatives from Qatar and Nepal held a press conference in Doha last week to refute the allegations. Narendra Bahadur Bhat, coordinator of Non-Resident Nepalese Association (NARA) Middle East disputed the number of Nepali deaths reported in the Guardian, which totaled 44 workers between June 4 and Aug. 8.
The government has also hired international law firm DLA Piper to investigate the Guardian’s allegations, the Peninsula reports.
Advisor to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs Ali Ahmed Al Kholeifi said that when the report is completed, the ministry will “decide on an appropriate course of action,” adding that “Qatar takes its international obligations very seriously.”
Labor law changes
Despite denying the findings of the Guardian’s report, Al Mulla confirmed to Al Raya that the government plans to amend parts of Qatar’s Labor Law to comply with requirements set out by World Cup organizers.
He also pointed out that the labor law already includes severe penalties for any company which violates labor rights, and added that the ministry plans to increase the number of inspectors by 100, from 150 to 250, to help enforce these laws.
Mulla’s interview tallies with comments made by Minister for Labor and Social Affairs, Abdullah Saleh Al Khulaifi, who has also announced a renewed commitment to law enforcement, including hiring more translators and setting up more branch offices of the Labor Department in areas of high concentration of workers, such as the Industrial Area.
Meanwhile, a delegation from an international labor federation has arrived in Doha to carry out an assessment of laborers’ working and living conditions, AFP reports.
The visit of a team from the Building and Wood Workers’ International Federation was planned before the Guardian published the results of its investigation.
Credit: Translation by Amin Isaac; Photo by Penny Yi Wang