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Sat 3 Sep 2005 04:00 AM

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Qatar construction sites erupt over agency scam

Qatari officials launch probe into labour racketeering within the construction sector

A three-way row has erupted between Qatar and the Indian and Nepalese embassies in Doha over the abuse of construction workers.

It follows the country’s first official strike involving some 400 site workers employed by contractor GEMCO, who downed tools last week in protest over salary arrears.

Construction Week has learned that the Embassy of India has lodged an official complaint with the government-funded National Human Rights Committee about the treatment of workers.

“These are all poor people who are being cheated. Some of them have still not been allowed to return to India after working for two years.

“They are crammed in 12 people to a single room without the proper air conditioning or toilet facilities.

“We have reported the matter to the Human Rights Committee,” said Ramesh Chandra, second secretary at the Embassy of India in Qatar.

The embassy has also launched a probe into a massive recruitment racket involving at least six firms alleged to have extracted around US $350 000 from 275 construction labourers who were looking for work in the country.

And the Royal Nepal Embassy in Qatar is preparing to lodge a mass claim with the labour court on behalf of around 200 workers employed by contractor GEMCO.

Rajendra Pandey, the first secretary at the Royal Nepal Embasy in Qatar, said that he was referring the cases of up to 200 Nepalese workers who were employed by GEMCO to the government labour authorities, after repeated attempts to contact the contractor proved unsuccessful.

Pandey said: “They are not repatriating workers and they are deducting OR75 per month from the salaries of workers, which they were not told about when they were recruited from Nepal.

“We expect to see more cases like this and they seem to be increasing.

“Nepali workers are loyal and dedicated and they certainly do not want to go on strike, but they have been compelled to go on strike.”

Labour racketeering is becoming an increasingly visible problem throughout the Gulf countries.

A GEMCO project manager, who refused to give his name, said: “We are not responsible: It’s the workers who’ve created the problems. Four people’s salaries have been delayed by 28 days only.”

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