More than a dozen employment agencies in Qatar have reportedly been closed down by authorities for flouting the country’s labor law and failing to improve after being warned repeatedly.
Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) canceled the licenses for the 15 unnamed agencies after conducting spot-checks and routine investigations, the Peninsula reported.
Reasons for the termination of their licenses include multiple complaints filed against them, violating the state’s labor law and failing to correct mistakes after being issued with an official warning, the ministry’s recruitment manager Fawaz Mohamed Nasser Al Rayes said.
A team of six Qatari inspectors monitors the performance of the 282 manpower agencies operating in the country, which warns the firms if they are violating the terms of their licenses.
They are given 14 days to comply, otherwise the case against them is escalated to the ministry’s legal department. Cancellation of the license requires sign-off from the minister, Al Rayes added.
Recruitment firms in Qatar and those based in labor-sending countries have faced increased scrutiny in recent years, amid repeated complaints of charging exorbitant fees to people who wish to work in Gulf countries.
According to Qatar’s labor law, it is illegal for recruitment companies “to receive from the worker any sums representing recruitment fees or expenses or any other costs.”
Additionally, “the recruitment of workers from abroad for others shall be made in accordance with a written contract between the licensed person and the employer in accordance with a model to be determined by a decision of the Minister.”
However, the practice still persists, and workers often arrive in Qatar already in debt by up to $5,000 after being coerced into paying the illegal fees.
MOLSA has taken some steps to try to address these issues.
Earlier this summer, a ministry official said that more than 800 companies in Qatar had been temporarily blacklisted and were banned from applying for government contracts or requesting warehouse units as punishment for breaching the labor law.
Although it did not give specific reasons as to how Law No. 14 of 2004 was flouted, violations included human rights-related issues as well as procedural ones, like not having a registered office for the company, the ministry official said.
The ban was expected to be lifted once they comply with the provisions of the law.
In 2013, it closed down 10 agencies specializing in recruitment of domestic staff for illegal operations.
It also introduced an official ratings system for all employment firms, giving them grades A, B or C. More than half of those agencies hiring domestic employees were rated at the lowest level (C) last year.
Only 17 of 135 examined met the criteria necessary to get an “A” grade.
And last summer, it announced that agencies that are found to be breaking the law repeatedly face being publicly “named and shamed” in local newspapers.
The ministry wrote to all agencies warning them it would be operating a “three strikes” policy, namely if it received three complaints against a firm, the company would be publicly named in the local newspapers.
However, it didn’t give any timeline for when this procedure would start, and to date it does not appear to have happened.