Rogue manpower agencies to be named in Qatar newspapers

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Kate Ter Haar/Flickr

With reporting from Riham Sheble

Qatar-based recruitment companies that repeatedly flout the labor law will soon be publicly identified in local newspapers, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) has confirmed to Doha News.

No date has been set for when this naming and shaming practice will begin, but a MOLSA representative said the process will start “soon.”

Last week, local manpower agencies were warned about the new procedure in a letter from MOLSA. The document read, as translated into English:

“We would like to notify you that the employment department will be conducting inspection rounds/expeditions at recruitment companies. If any violation to the law number 14 for 2004 is documented and if complaints are filed three times against a company, the violating companies will be named in the local newspapers.

We ask that all recruitment companies take heed of the above and abide by the laws, wishing everyone the best.”

Manpower agencies were also sent the same information via SMS. It is not clear whether the announcements will be posted only in Arabic-language media, or in English-language newspapers as well.

Recruitment woes

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.”

Workers

Kristin Giordano

Despite these rules, many manpower firms both here and from labor-sending countries often charge exorbitant fees to workers who wish to come to the Gulf, including Qatar.

The practice has been well-documented by several international human rights groups, and most recently, in a new Qatar Foundation-backed report on recruitment tactics.

According to the report, these fees lay the groundwork for mistreatment of workers in Qatar.

Burdened with debt from the outset, migrants are less likely to speak up for their rights when faced with other abuses, such as passport confiscation and substitute contracts that dictate less favorable working terms.

The report explained:

“The individual may not want to work under the circumstances being offered, but is required to do so because the alternative of returning home empty-handed is not considered an option. Thus, he is also engaged in a form of ‘forced labour.'”

In the past, Qatar has sought to make local recruitment agencies more accountable by conducting annual evaluations that rank them with A, B or C grades. Last year, the 17 top-ranked maid agencies were rewarded with free maid visas.

Also in 2013, MOLSA announced its intention to name and shame private companies that violate the labor law on the ministry’s website. However, that list does not currently appear to be online.

Stepping up efforts

More recently, MOLSA officials have been increasing their efforts to enforce the nation’s existing labor law, as well pledging to make the kafala sponsorship system less restrictive on expats.

The move comes amid fierce international criticism in the run up to Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup. It also follows the release of a government-commissioned report from DLA Piper that acknowledged systematic labor abuse and issued several recommendations to mitigate it.

In May, authorities pledged to relax no objection certificate rules to make it easier for foreigners to switch jobs here. They also spoke about changing the exit permit system into an automated process, so that expats are not wholly dependent on their sponsors’ permission to leave the country.

And just last week, the Cabinet approved a draft amendment to the labor law that would require companies to pay workers through direct deposit. This mandate would in theory make it harder for employers to delay or not pay wages to their employees.

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