A report backed by the Qatari government has called for foreign workers’ contracts to be copied in their native language and for a ban on changes after the employee has left their home country.
The report, commissioned by Qatar Foundation and titled Migrant Labour Recruitment to Qatar, also found a large number of employers were illegally holding expat workers’ passports.
The majority of foreign workers surveyed said they did not have a copy of their contract, which was usually written in English and not their native language.
The human resources manager of a company that participated in the survey said they relied on recruitment agents to explain the offer to workers in their language.
The report, the details of which were published in The Peninsula Qatar newspaper, recommended expats be given greater time to consider the details of employment contracts and that changes upon arrival in Qatar be banned, unless they are deemed to be advantageous to employees. The report did not detail how it would be determined if such changes were in the employee’s interest.
The research found that it was a common practice in Nepal, the Philippines and India to force foreign workers to sign a second or substitute contract under pressure, such as at the airport either prior to departure or upon arrival in Qatar.
The report deemed the practice as human trafficking, saying these expats were forced to accept the substandard work and wages and could not afford to report the deception, leading to anger and disenchantment among migrant workers in Qatar.
“Lack of transparency regarding contracts and visas and who will explain terms and conditions to prospective migrant workers is something that needs to be addressed,” the report says.
None of the workers surveyed had possession of their passports. Most said their employers were holding passports for “safe-keeping”, while others said theirs had been confiscated. Companies claimed the passports were available on request.
“Although the withholding of passports is illegal according to Qatar Labour Law, it is a widespread practice that has been highlighted by all international organisations in their ongoing critiques of the conditions of migrant labour in Qatar,” the report says.
“If employers provided proper secure storage space (as required under new QF Standards), the security issue should no longer be a reason, or excuse, for companies not to return passports once the official paperwork has been completed.”
The report also found the number of illegal workers in Qatar could not be determined.
In most cases, they entered the Gulf state on a travel visa and were unable to secure work before the visa expired.
“Decreasing the number and vulnerability of irregular migrants would be achieved by utilising easy exit procedures and bridging visas… A migrant worker, who normally has no idea or ability to obtain or renew his work or residency visa, should not be criminalised for his irregular status,” the report says.
“Easy exit repatriation should be facilitated, or a sponsor found to regularise their work and residency status by way of a bridging visa – a technique being considered in Ireland and other countries. This will increase protection and mobility of migrant workers.”