By Andy Sambidge
Some foreign workers subjected to appalling episodes of sexual and physical violence, work up to 100 hours per week, with no days off
Qatari authorities are failing to protect thousands of foreign domestic workers who face severe exploitation - including forced labour and physical and sexual violence, Amnesty International said in a new report published on Wednesday
The 77-page report paints a bleak picture of women, mainly from the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, recruited to work in Qatar on the basis of false promises over salaries and working conditions, only to be made to work extreme hours and seven-day weeks.
Some women described to Amnesty how they were also subjected to appalling episodes of sexual and physical violence.
The report, which draws upon interviews with 52 female domestic workers, with government officials, embassies of workers’ countries of origin and recruitment agencies, shows that in some cases women in Qatar are being made to work up to 100 hours per week, with no days off.
Under Qatari law there are no limits on working hours for domestic workers and no requirement to allow them a day off, and domestic workers are unable to lodge complaints with Qatar’s Labour Ministry - a situation which Amnesty said it is calling on the Qatari authorities to remedy urgently.
Qatar’s estimated 84,000 women migrant domestic workers are subject to the country’s highly restrictive sponsorship system (kafala system), which prevents migrant workers from leaving their job or the country without their employer’s permission.
Amnesty said that as with male construction industry workers, the women routinely have their passports withheld by their employers, and in some cases employers also confiscate their mobile phones.
It added that while some women find good jobs and are treated well, those facing abuse are left with little choice but to “run away”, putting them at risk of being arrested, detained and deported on charges of “absconding”.
Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s global issues director, said: “International attention on the 2022 Fifa World Cup has thrown a spotlight on the plight of migrant construction workers in Qatar. However, the complete absence of protections for domestic workers’ labour rights, and the fact that they are isolated in employers’ homes, leaves them exposed to abuse to an even greater extent.
“Migrant domestic workers are victims of a discriminatory system that denies them basic protections and leaves them open to exploitation and abuse, including forced labour and human trafficking.
“We have spoken to women who have been terribly deceived, then found themselves trapped and at the mercy of abusive employers, banned from leaving the house. Some women said they were threatened with physical violence when they told their employers they wanted to leave.
“Women who find themselves in abusive households face utterly miserable conditions. They have few options - if they choose to simply get out of the house, they will be branded ‘runaways’ and are likely to end up being detained and deported.
“Promises by the government to protect domestic workers’ labour rights have so far not amounted to anything. Qatar must stop dragging its feet over this and guarantee domestic workers legal protection for basic rights immediately.”
Amnesty researchers said they heard shocking testimonies of violent abuse in Qatar, including women who reported being slapped, pulled by the hair, poked in the eyes, and kicked down the stairs by their employers. Three women reported that they had been raped
In March last year Amnesty was told by a senior prison official that 74 of 75 women held at Doha’s women’s prison were foreign nationals, and more than two-thirds of these were domestic workers.
As if the rest of the GCC is protecting them.
Strip the World Cup from Qatar. Simple!
Really ? is that what happened to South Africa ?