In an effort to weed out undocumented workers in Qatar, the Ministry of Interior has issued new executive regulations to punish companies and individuals who employ these expats.
The regulations bolster Law No. 4 of 2009, which governs the entry, exit, residence and sponsorship of expatriates.
According to QNA, new punishments would include the “blacklisting” of those who hire undocumented workers, meaning they would not be able to recruit new employees for two years.
Companies and individuals who allow their sponsored employers to work for others could be blacklisted for one year.
The new regulations will come into effect on May 1, the MOI said in a tweet:
تفعيلا للقانون رقم (4) لسنة 2009 بشأن تنظيم دخول وخروج الوافدين وإقامتهم وكفالتهم فقد تقرر اعتباراً من 1/5/2014م ما يلي .. يتبع
— وزارة الداخلية – قطر (@MOI_Qatar) March 23, 2014
Qatar already has several strict punishments in place for those who violate the labor law. Absconding workers face up to three years of jail time and QR50,000 in fines. And a person who gives shelter to undocumented workers or employs him or her is liable for imprisonment and payment of a fine ranging from QR20,000 to QR100,000.
However, QNA reports:
“In spite of the above penalties, many parties continue violating the law making it necessary for more regulatory terms to end this activity.”
To tackle the problem, the MOI’s Search and Follow Up Department (SFD) will continue to conduct raids, director Brig. Nasser Mohammed Eissa Al-Sayed said:
“We cannot ignore that the employers are paying huge amounts to recruitment offices and spend money to qualify and train these workers to acquit them the necessary expertise, while other employers urge the same workers to abscond from their sponsors by offering them special salaries and privileges in violation of the law.”
In the past, residents have criticized the MOI for cracking down on undocumented workers without asking why they were breaking the labor law.
Some expats, for example, may have no choice but to work odd jobs if their current employers are not paying their salaries regularly, or withholding their passports, preventing them from leaving the country.
But this new campaign comes at a time when Qatar is under intense international scrutiny over the treatment of its working class, in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup.
Though the country’s labor laws theoretically protect low-income expats against abuses such as unsafe working environments, unsanitary living conditions and late or non-payment of wages, enforcement of the rules has been difficult – even in the case of documented residents.
The push to increase the sponsor’s responsibility for his employees, then, may be one way Qatar is attempting to ensure workers’ rights are protected.
In another labor-related move last week, the Qatar Central Bank asked all banks to provide it with basic information about their customers’ accounts.
According to the Peninsula, this was done as a precursor to a new wage security system for expats that would soon require all employers to pay the salaries of their workers through direct deposits.
In October, the Labor Ministry threatened to blacklist companies who don’t pay salaries on time.