Lobbyists slam Qatar over sponsorship laws

US-based rights watchdog says Qatar has some of most "restrictive sponsorship laws"
(Photo credit should read KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes)
By Francesca Astorri
Thu 07 Feb 2013 10:35 AM

Lobbyist group Human Rights Watch has slammed Qatar over alleged labour law violations and freedom of speech in its latest 2013 World Report.

The New York-based rights watchdog
reported that “the country has some of the most restrictive sponsorship laws in
the Gulf region, and forced labor and human trafficking are serious problems”.

Migrant
workers, who make up 99 percent of the private sector workforce in Qatar, reported extensive labour law violations,
having no rights to unionise or strike, facing passport confiscation and
having to pay exorbitant recruitment fees, according to the study.

Common
complaints included late or unpaid wages, overcrowded and unsanitary labour
camps, as well as lack of access to potable water. “Many workers said they received false
information about their jobs and salaries before arriving and signed contracts
in Qatar under coercive circumstances,” the rights group reported.

The group said the government has also failed to address shortcomings in
its legal and regulatory framework. “Laws intended to protect workers are
rarely enforced,” as Qatar employs only
150 labour inspectors to monitor compliance with the law, and inspections
do not include worker interviews.

Freedom of
speech is a real concern in Qatar, with poet Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami
still in detention more than a year since his arrest in November 2011,
facing charges that can carry the death penalty. He is accused of insulting the country's emir.

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