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Thu 23 Mar 2017 08:38 AM

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Qatar criticised by ILO for workers' conditions

Doha has come under criticism in recent years, with activists and trade unions reporting abuses

Qatar criticised by ILO for workers' conditions
Image for illustrative purpose only. (AFP/Getty Images)

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has deferred a decision on whether to investigate Qatar for forced labour violations, giving the Gulf state until November to implement new labour reforms to improve migrant worker rights.

About 90 percent of the Arab state's 2.5 million population are migrant workers from countries including India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Many are in low-paid construction jobs to build stadiums and infrastructure ahead of the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

But Doha has come under criticism in recent years, with activists and trade unions reporting abuses, such as squalid living conditions, poor health and safety standards and migrants having their pay withheld and passports confiscated.

The ILO said late on Tuesday it had noted recent measures by Qatar to improve the plight of migrant workers, but asked the Gulf state to provide further information on labour reforms.

"The Governing Body decides to request the Government of Qatar to continue to provide information ... on further measures to effectively implement (a law) relating to the entry, exit and residence of migrant workers," the ILO said.

The ILO's executive also asked Doha for details on reforms related to domestic workers and the status of committees to resolve workers' disputes by its next meeting in November - when it will decide whether to appoint a commission to probe abuses.

Qatari embassy officials in Delhi were not immediately available for comment on the ILO decision.

The state's kafala sponsorship system - under which migrant workers cannot change jobs or leave the country without their employer's permission - lies at the heart of allegations.

In December, Qatar passed a new law which allows workers who have completed contracts to change jobs freely and imposes fines of businesses who confiscate employees' passports.

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