Qatar visa rules allow "forced labour" - ITUC

International unions lodge case with ILO , claiming employers have "total control" over workers

(Photo credit should read KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo credit should read KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images)

International unions have lodged a new case with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) citing the use of "forced labour" in Qatar.

With only 300,000 Qatari nationals, 1.2m migrant workers are needed for the country’s infrastructure build-up ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

This is the first time forced labour has been used to define working conditions in Qatar in a case to the ILO.

The representation has been lodged jointly by the International Trade Union Federation (ITUC) and Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI).

It features seven individual cases from hundreds that have been reported to the ITUC.

ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said the visa sponsorship system in Qatar allows the exaction of forced labour by making it difficult for a migrant worker to leave an abusive employer or travel overseas without permission.

“Under Qatari law, employers have near total control over workers. They alone choose if a worker can change jobs, leave the country or stay in Qatar," said Burrow.

“In the next few months, the contracts for the new World Cup stadia and infrastructure will be announced. Millions more workers will be hired from overseas for the road, rail and building infrastructure for the World Cup.

“We are putting multinational companies tendering for these contracts on notice to abide by international law and respect workers’ rights,” warned Burrow.

The Labour Relations Department of the Ministry of Labour in Qatar received 6,000 worker complaints last year.

According to local media reports, the top concerns facing workers included employers not fulfilling obligations under the visa sponsorship system, including refusal to give end-of-service benefits, and also delays in paying wages. In some cases, workers are not paid at all.

“Many workers suffer exploitation for fear of retaliation. The government must put their 150 labour inspectors to work and make the complaints process accessible to the majority of workers, many of whom do not speak English or Arabic,” said BWI general secretary Ambet Yuson.

Once received, the ILO will establish a tripartite committee to review the evidence and make recommendations to the government of Qatar on how to comply with its international commitments.

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Posted by: Girish B R

Getting work done is not the matter of force ,but also a matter of interest to the worker.
A dis-interested worker is more dangerous than an average worker.
Healthier environment and proper pay ensures that the projects are completed in time.

Think that the worker building a skyscrapper does not do his work diligently and the quality of the building suffers due to that.
How long will it take for that building to complete and after it is completed how long can that building stand !
This is evident from the new Qatar Airport planned to open in 2006 is still under the construction stage and delays in completing the same make the design obsolete.
Hopefully the airport might just get ready ,but will it serve the people for which it was designed year back.
To announce a project is very attractive and easy, but the completion an project determines its success and that depends on how the worker has performed.
After all they are humans and have left their families & ountries to earn bread ..

Posted by: Alhan

@ Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, you have never been promised any rights other than the rights of a welcomed guest. You are on an employer visa or investor visa and your job contract does not entitle you anything other than the rights of an employee. Please accept the fact that no matter how long you reside in the Gulf, you are granted no more rights than any new expat who steps off the plane. Any legislation to upgrade the status of our guests will further exasperate the demographic imbalance which already poses a great risk to the identity of the country and its citizens. Be more objective and have contingency plans.

Posted by: Oneill

You are right Mr. Alhan. They have the rights of the welcome guest. This is what the they need. That you as the employer, sponsor or investor will abide by as stipulated in the contract.
They do not ask for more. That the employer will respect the contract and pay what is due and all entitlements for the employee.
What do you mean by 'be more objective and have contigency plans'? That the workers building your country's infrustructure be ready to be exploited?

Posted by: Matts

@KAA, The European companies are working in Qatar and the laws are based in Qatar. How could you ever imagine foreign companies can bring their country laws to work in Qatar? Qatar hopefully shall make it a better place for all workers....atleast that is what we expect as expats working here.

Posted by: Abdul hafeez Sheikh

GCC workers are special assets for their country of origin and the country in which these workers are working . At least they are contributing in development of these countries . The middle east model has special peculiarities and i think Dubai is the most advanced in worker dealing . The expatriates should be given some freedom and rights as foreigners which is possible through some legislation. These workers will be useful for their country therefore some special concession may be given by the government of Qatar which shall bring very good name go Qatar .

Posted by: Emkaybee

It is also required that Man-power exporting countries of the Indian Sub-continent enforce strict implementation of Labour Contracts, with the Sub-continent Embassies/Consulates in Doha-Qatar playing more active role by encouraging their worker-citizens to come forward and state their difficulties and any complains they may have with the Qatari Employers. Unless this is not taken up, the workers will always be at the mercy of the companies, who treat their workers like slaves.

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