US-based rights watchdog says Qatar has some of most "restrictive sponsorship laws"
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.