Ever since Qatar awarded the right to hold the 2022 World Cup, the treatment of around 2 million migrant workers driving the country’s economy has been under the spotlight. Whether building vital infrastructure or delivering key services, these workers have often found themselves burdened by the debt of high recruitment fees, working long hours for low pay, and living in sub-standard accommodation. At the heart of such exploitation is Qatar’s notorious kafala sponsorship system, which puts these workers at the mercy of unscrupulous employers who have the power to prevent them changing jobs or escaping abuse.
Nearly 2 million migrant workers from around the world are present in Qatar, building the infrastructure and providing the services behind the country’s rapid economic expansion, and contributing to a construction boom linked in part to the country’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
Making up over 90% of Qatar’s population, these workers come primarily from poorer countries in South Asia, South-East Asia and parts of Africa. They come in search of economic opportunities and the chance to earn money to send back to their families at home. Their hopes are too often unmet, and organizations including Amnesty International have highlighted problems of widespread labour abuse for many years. Many workers arrive indebted, having taken out high-interest loans to pay excessive and illegal recruitment fees, while some given false information about the jobs and salaries. On arrival, they also become subjected to Qatar’s kafala sponsorship system, which places many of these workers at real risk of exploitation and labour abuse. This has led to sustained criticism of the labour practices of the next World Cup host.
Under the kafala system, migrant workers rely on their employer for almost every aspect of their legal presence in Qatar. For example, a worker’s employer sponsors their entry into the country and has the responsibility to issue and renew residence and work permits. Employers also have the power to prevent a worker from changing jobs by refusing to sign a NOC” Non-Objection Certificate”. They can also put the worker at risk of arrest and deportation if they report them as having “absconded” from their job, or if they cancel or cannot renew a worker’s visa or residence permit. Until October 2018, employers could prevent migrant workers from leaving the country by refusing to approve an exit permit. With so much power granted to employers over their workers, exploitation and labour abuse are widespread in Qatar. When workers face serious problems such as non-payment of salaries, long working hours, passport confiscation or poor living conditions.
Beguiling Recruitment Practices Leave Workers Indebted and Vulnerable
The Qatari government had recently expressed that the illicit yet inescapable issue of transient labourers’ paying their own enlistment expenses is not a Qatari issue and is one for labourers’ nations of the starting point to address. They do not restrict the benefits to scouts in nations of beginning; Qatari organisations, managers, and selection representatives advantage when labourers compelled to pay their own enlistment charges. Organizations in Qatar increment their seriousness by re-appropriating the instalment of enrollment charges to contract-based workers and subcontractors, who in the long run avoid any responsibility to labourers who wind up paying their enlistment expenses themselves. Along these lines, transient labourers like Henry, and 71 others in this report, disclosed to Human Rights Watch that they are now obliged when they show up in Qatar, having paid between $693 to $2,613 in enlistment expenses to make sure about such positions. At last, they ended up constrained to work for quite a long time without pay, since they must choose the option to remain with just the guarantee of being paid. This obligation builds the ‘intensity’ of organisations and businesses over workers, making them significantly bound to pull off manhandling representatives without responsibility.
Unsafe Business Practices Punish Workers
A few organizations in Qatar intentionally keep delay, or deny labourers’ wages for extra benefits. Different organisations, ordinarily little and medium-sized endeavours in the development business where long and regularly complex subcontracting chains are the standard might be not able to cover labourers and on time due to instalment disturbances higher up the chain. These disturbances can prompt indebtedness and support the ordinarily rehearsed, yet informal, strategy of paying onwards just when paid. Such issues are not remarkable to Qatar. However, while many different nations have embraced arrangements and laws that intend to handle unpaid wages for labourers because of “pay when paid” strategies, Qatar can’t seem to do. Also, development is the biggest activity segment in Qatar, and numerous traveller labourers have been left poverty-stricken because of subcontractors’ bankruptcy gives higher up the flexibly chain.
Compensation Protection System Not Worth
In Qatar, the Wage Protection System is to be sure a misnomer for a product that, in actuality, does little to secure wages, and can be better depicted as a compensation checking framework with critical holes in its oversight limit. Best case scenario, the WPS endeavors to screen laborers’ pay rates and raise warnings when installments are mistaken or deferred – on occasion, even these errands are not viably performed. In 2018, Qatar set up the Labor Dispute Resolution Committees, intended to accelerate the prosecution cycle and abbreviate the time it takes to determine work debates. That very year, it likewise passed a law setting up the Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund, intended to guarantee laborers get their unclaimed wages in situations where the Labor Dispute Resolution Committees controlled in support of themselves and where their organization couldn’t or would not pay them.
Nonetheless, as indicated by the discoveries of this report and a September 2019 Amnesty International report, the Labor Dispute Resolution Committees stay moderate, unavailable, and inadequate. However long transient specialists keep on lacking authority over their own migration status, and are seriously limited in their capacity to work with another business so as to monetarily uphold themselves to stay in the nation, the option to seek after pay is worthless. Then, the Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund, which is proposed to shield laborers from the effect of late or unpaid wages, was set up in 2018 and just became operational recently. Basic freedoms Watch talked with in excess of 93 transient specialists working for in excess of 60 organizations or managers and checked on authoritative archives and reports for this report. Compensation mishandles are among the most widely recognized and most destroying infringement of transient specialists’ privileges in Qatar and the Gulf locale, where different cycles of the kafala framework exist. To handle wage misuse, the Qatari government made the Wage Protection System (WPS) in 2015, Labor Dispute Resolution Committees in 2017, and the Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund in 2018.
The administration should find a way to guarantee that laborers have full and precise data about their positions and pay rates before they leave their nations of origin. It ought to alter the Labor Law to determine that businesses, not laborers, pay all enrollment and business related visa expenses and should give proof that they have done as such. Qatar ought to likewise severely authorize its prohibition on identification seizure, repeal the leave visa necessity, and permit laborers to change occupations without support assent. It should screen business locales, including by meeting laborers, to guarantee that current Labor Laws are implemented, and ought to distribute information on specialist wounds and passing. Managers found to have disregarded laborer rights ought to get punishments similar with the reality of the maltreatment, and intended to debilitate maltreatments from occurring, including repayment of selecting expenses paid by laborers.
On the off chance that Qatar guarantees that there is powerful examination and arraignment for offenses under the Labor Law, it will give fundamentally more grounded securities to the nation’s transient specialists. However, by holding different laws and practices, for example, the Sponsorship Law, and not tending to the wide-scale practices of enrolling charges and visa reallocation, Qatar keeps on encouraging oppressive work conditions in the nation that sometimes sum to constrained work.
Basic freedoms reached those organizations and elements whose work is explicitly tended to in this report, yet the issues raised are applicable to a wide arrangement of public and private entertainers. Considering our examination archiving the pervasiveness of oppressive conditions for laborers in Qatar’s development industry, Human Rights Watch emphatically supports all organizations in that industry to openly promise to regard the privileges of all specialists related with their activities and to embrace solid measures to forestall, moderate, and address maltreatments of laborer rights. The particular estimates we suggest remember activity by organizations required for development in Qatar, including temporary workers and subcontractors engaged with the development of World Cup-related offices, to keep Qatari law and worldwide work guidelines. In particular, they ought to consent to: find a way to guarantee no laborers have paid charges related with their enrollment and focus on repaying laborers who have paid any such expenses in negation of nearby law, including if the expenses were paid to work organizations or different go-betweens; carefully deny the maintenance of laborers’ international IDs or other personality archives, including by subcontractors or mediators, and guarantee that sheltered storerooms where they can access such reports are made accessible; and guarantee that all specialists get and sign enforceable business contracts in a language that they comprehend before their relocation.
They ought to likewise consent to guarantee on-time instalment in brimming with labourers’ wages from the principal month of their business, to paid into ledgers on a no-not exactly a month-to-month premise; guarantee sufficient lodging offices for all specialists as per homegrown and global norms, and give ensures that they will regard labourers’ privileges to the opportunity of affiliation and aggregate dealing and remember arrangements with this impact for labourers’ work contracts. At last, they ought to mastermind autonomous checking of labourers’ conditions on their ventures or tasks under their watch, and issue public reports on labourers’ conditions, including specialist wounds and passing, to successfully screen conditions at World Cup-related locales and guarantee that the games don’t settle upon laboured misuse and abuse.
Qatar’s pledge to improve the protection of migrant workers with the assistance of the ILO is a promising step and a major indicator of the shift in the country’s political will to address violations of labour rights. But promising a reform is not the same as successfully delivering one.
While the establishment of the Committees remains one of the most encouraging steps taken by Qatar to date, in practice they still fall short of transforming migrant workers’ ability to access justice and effective remedy. Finally, ensuring an effective complaint mechanism is only one part of the solution in Qatar. The maintenance of the exploitative sponsorship system, the weak enforcement of the country’s Labour Law, the low minimum wage and the strengthening of the Wage Protection System, must all be tackled in a holistic plan of action.