Qatar visa rules allow "forced labour" - ITUC

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

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 ..


@ 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.


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?


@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.

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 .


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.


And the suffering is not restricted to blue collars by the way, I myself, an architect, went through this dilemma many years ago when my previous employer (who wasn't a Qatari by the way) refused to grant me permission to change my job to another that offered me more than double my salary then. At the end I had to do a lot of work for him for free, and give away my end of service benefits, due salary, and annual ticket, all in order to get his permission to switch my job! Thanks God it is all behind me now, but I still petty those stuck in lousy jobs with no hope.

Ahmed Nasir Building

Is this only Qatar we are talking about, I guess a lot of other countries specially, the ones in Gulf region have very similar practice and there has never been a real effort to stop that. It is just talked about to fulfill the need to satisfy the paperwork requirement of the big bodies like UN, and the human rights bodies under it. A serious and committed effort is required to get the workers rights rule straightened.


I'm not sure that the visa regulations & sponsorship rules for UAE differ significantly from the Qatari ones.
Most employers here keep the passports of low paid workers and many keep the passports of all employees. There doesn't appear to be any form of automatic sanction-fine or imprisonment-for doing this so, despite it being illegal, it will always be widely ignored and the authorities can be assumed to know that.
People can take an employer to court but they risk losing their tied accommodation and food which-in the absence of salary-may be the only thing keeping them alive.
There are lots of ways to correct that problem but the government do not seem to be actively concerned. A new contract for maids has been close to a year in "discussions" now - as if that would have hard to make law.
Forced work for only room & food is slavery & has no place in a humane society.


This is RUBISH; most of the work in Qatar is awarded to multi national companies from all over the word and specifically European companies that has total control over the conduct of their business affairs who are suppose to be running the business in accordance with a high standard.

So why on earth the Qatar Labour Law is to be blamed for the wrong doing of European companies who are doing more than 80% of the work.

Don't you think the astronomically paid European management should be blamed for it??

This is nothing but envy from those who could not take the defeat of losing the 2022 FIFA World Cup.


@Ali - the employer could also safeguard their rights without confiscating a passport by a)doing background checks on employees to ensure they aren't likely to be criminals and b)providing them with a working environment that means the worker wouldn't want to leave to work for another company.

Confiscating a passport to prevent an employee leaving is just a way for the employer to treat their employee badly while insulating themselves from a standard labour market. Another option would be to simply have a fine in place for a worker who chooses to leave their place of work before their contract ends.

In short, employers need to get out of the mindset that they actually own and should be able to control all aspects of their employee's life. People are not property, and ironically, labour is the only commodity in the construction market that hasn't increased in price. How can man-made bricks and mortar be more valuable than human lives?


Ali, I understand the concerns, but if he commits a crime then that is a matter for police not for the employer. If he steals from the employer then the employer needs to refer it to the police. The right to hold a passport is a human right in my opinion. If you imagine it from the other side, an employer could be holding the passport and not paying the guy and if the guy says anything then he risks losing his only access to food and shelter. This is direct slavery and you cannot have things structured in a way that leaves that door open. Secondly, there are laws to stop people moving from one employer to another. In a transient place like this I agree with that, but holding the passport is unnecessary, as he would need to get a new visa anyway and if the passport was blocked by the previous employer then it couldn't happen.
I honestly do understand where you are coming from, but if you had more trust in the authorities protecting you then maybe you wouldn't need to hold the passports?


My friend, if you dont keep the passport, then what will happen if the worker commits a crime and runs off? Or, after the company pays thousands to hire him, he runs off to another company after a few months ? All said, keeping passports is the safest way of safeguarding the rights of the employer, as otherwise chaos will ensue


@KAA - European companies may get PM or CC on a project but the contracting side is nearly always local groups or regional JV's. You can't really get projects unless you're in with these companies and you certainly then can't turn around to a powerful local group that actually got the contract for you and say 'look here, you need to treat your employees better'.

Sadly I think the root of these problems stems back to the countries of origin of many of these workers. People at the bottom of the economic food chain (or cast) get treated as little more than cattle and then get shipped over here.

Any solution must come from the GCC governments working with the embassies of these countries to ensure a fair and proper process happens from start to finish.

PPM makes an excellent point. Keeping passports is illegal, however most contracting companies do it (in UAE). WHY? whats the point in a law if it's ignored? Governments have to protect the people on it's soil as well as their nationals.

The Avenger

You are tallking pure nonsense KAA . The biggest winners on construction contracts within the last 18 months have been local Qatari and GCC based Joint Ventures .

Stand alone European construction companies find it harder to operate to because sponsorship constraints and cost .

You'll find the Korean and Chinese companies have taken most of the international slots that you speak about .

Please do your research before you post , its obvious by your post that you have issues with Europeans and your terminology reflects that .


Multinational companies do not make or amend the laws of Qatar. If the Qatari law gives them and all other employers supreme control over the mobility and fate of their employees.
Construction companies are simply taking advantage of a position of power that has been legally granted to them, and enables them to get the job done with minimal headaches from their employees who are [forced] to work.
These companies are acting within the legal framework of the country, and to expect them to voluntarily uphold higher standards is wishful thinking.


This is how the WHOLE GCC works. Why is ONLY Qatar being singled out?? Name all the countries. Its no secret.


Actually Salman, you are incorrect.

Bahrain has the most progressive social and labor laws in the GCC. Expats can give notice (upto 90 days) of their resignation to the LMRA (Labor Market Reg Auth) online, and the LMRA automatically transfers their visa to a new employee if a new contract is presented without seeking approval from the current employer. Employees are generally free to resign or transfer their employment at their own will.

Qatar is singled out because it has thrust itself onto the global stage, inviting scrutiny ahead of the world cup. As with the case of the Louvre laborers in the UAE, international companies and brands are wary of damaging their reputation by associating with entities that do not respect international H.Rights and conventions.

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