As part of a renewed push to crack down on undocumented workers in Qatar, the Ministry of Interior has announced that more than 40 expats and nationals involved in supporting the illegal practice have been sentenced to jail time.
In a statement, the MOI did not specify the specific crime for which these residents will spend one to three years in prison. But according to the Peninsula, the convicted are executives of private companies who were found guilty of “visa trading.”
The ministry’s Search and Follow Up Department (SFD) has also referred some 50 companies to the public prosecution and booked 84 other cases related to visa trading, which is presumably the buying and selling of work permits here.
The total fines for violating the labor law amounted to $1.2 million (QR4,270,000).
In the past, Qatar has drawn criticism for concentrating on rounding up undocumented workers, rather than the businesses supporting them. It now appears to be turning its attention the latter group.
In yesterday’s statement, SFD director Col. Nasser Muhammad al Syed is quoted as saying:
“The campaign results have proved that the fake companies have key role in raising the number of illegal and absconded workers in the country where their large presence had made threats to the social security of the state.”
…He (also) pointed that the Ministry of Interior handled the victims with humanitarian manners by which more than 1,000 workers could transfer their sponsorship to other agents.”
The shift in focus from “illegal workers” to employers comes as Qatar faces intense international scrutiny over the treatment of its blue-collar workforce ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Another example of the MOI’s growing attention on businesses that violate the labor law is upcoming harsher punishments for companies and individuals who hire undocumented workers. These firms would be blacklisted and not allowed them to recruit new employees for two years.
Under the new regulations, which take effect May 1, those who allow their sponsored employees to work for others could be also be blacklisted, for a period of one year.
This is in addition to measures already in place under the labor law, which include a punishment of up to three years in jail and QR50,000 in fines for absconding workers. Those found guilty of sheltering or employing them could also face prison and fines of up to QR100,000.
So basically, the policy is this: slaves should not be allowed to work for anyone but their master, and the REAL victim is the master, whose right to his worker’s labor is being undermined.
Those busted are what we’d call “visa traders.” Which is no better than human trafficking. The way it works is simple, I’m an Indian con
man based in India under the disguise of
a labor recruitment agency. I offer a one
2-year job contract to three men to work in Doha as an office boy with a pay of
QR1,300 plus paid accommodation. I tell
the men a finder’s fee of QR5,000 riyal is required to secure this job. I’m a poor desperate indian man who wants to
support my family, therefore I take a loan either from loan sharks or from the
agency itself for the QR 5,000 plus interest, basically six month pay at their
promised Doha job. Or I put up
collateral such as farm land or my home.
Still a good deal for poor indian me.
A fake company which works with this recruitment agency in Doha
is the company I will be working for. Mostly
construction companies or cleaning companies as it is easier to justify large
number of employees. Some of these companies
are real, but the “real” part of the job is just a front for their visa trading business. Once the poor indian me arrives in Doha I’m
picked up taken to a labor camp and basically told to fetch for myself working
any job I can find. Plus I’ll have to
pay a monthly fee of QR 1,000 to my Qatari company sponsor or else will be
The Qatari company is sponsored by a Qatari man but usually
managed by people of the same nationality as the laborer, again lets use india
as an example. I’m the indian business
manager and I tell my Qatari partner I’ll pay you Qr25000 for you to stay home
and do nothing just let me operate and manage your construction company. Ill pay the bills and secure work, if I lose
you still make your QR25000 and if I make money I net all the profits after I pay
your fee… Qatari manager turns a blind eye and doesn’t care what sort of legal
or illegal work is being committed…
Back to poor indian man, who owns QR5,000 plus interest in
india to the job broker and now owns a monthly
QR1,000 to his Qatar based sponsor.
If he goes back or complains the loan sharks back in India could and
will hurt him or his family, or cash in any collateral he or his family has put
So what’s a man to do… easy.. as the company I work for has
no real work and will not pay me any money but rather demand money from me.. im
forced to slave off at any other job I can
find… well here comes Qatari company B… another construction firm who has
secured several sub contracts by supporting a very low bidder.. the very low
bidder has won the tender because he will be subcontracting all the work out to
company C.. company C can carry out the work real cheap because they have low
labor costs.. cause…drum roll.. company C pay the poor guy desperate for a job
to pay off the loan sharks back home and the 1,000 riyal fee is willing to
slave off a whole 12 hours on very low pay… once that job is done they find
another job and another and so on…. Sometimes working several jobs a day…
(think of it as paying off your student loans by working extra hours and very
bad jobs.. only worst)…
Till the guy pays off his loan sharks… usually by that time
he is either acquired a skill or driving license allowing him to get paid more
and therefore is able to keep up this arrangements.. which surprisingly he is
happy with… he now makes QR5,000 because he is a freelance electrician, tiller,
driver, plumber…. . or turns himself in to the police station telling them he
wants to go back… and which point they end up going back home but with the
comfort of knowing loan sharks back home wont come after him or his family….
Basically to tackle this from happening the govt needs to
tackle the companies which hire illegals… and the companies which recruit a lot
of laborers but don’t really have much work.. visa traders… this is what the article says has happened…
also the government is following best practice by insuring any large govt
tender only allows for well established companies to participate and not any
company who tend to sub contract the tender out to another company, over and
over again making it difficult to track who is actually doing what work..
Nice summation, thank you. What is the attitude within the Qatari community towards the Qataris who commit and facilitate this sort of crime? It seems to be very common, and at least in my time and circle it was an open secret as to who was doing it. Why has it taken so long to crack down? Is it tacitly accepted?
Wow! Thanks for breaking that down. I actually enjoyed reading it. Kudos.
Now lets hope that some of the crack down works. You cant expect all this to go away soon but at least there is some attention being paid to it.
But don’t forget all the domestic workers who abscond from abusive households and then go to work illegally around Qatar. (and in some cases in the GCC equally abused by their own embassy staff and countrymen)
Very nicely put 🙂
There are also the companies, some international big names, who allow staff to fly here on tourist visas every week from neighbouring countries to avoid having to get proper work/residency permits or bypass NOC ban periods.
Guess these people might help inflate tourism numbers in Qatar.