Contrary to pledges, Qatar’s alleged mistreatment of migrant workers continues

Sunday 01/10/2017
At risk. Foreign labourers walk back to their accommodation at the Ezdan 40 compound after finishing work in Doha’s Al-Wakrah southern suburbs. (AFP)

London- Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Qatar to introduce laws to protect mi­grant workers, particu­larly from the country’s scorching heat.
“Qatari authorities should adopt and enforce adequate restrictions on outdoor work to protect the lives of migrant construction work­ers who are at risk from working in the country’s intense heat and hu­midity,” an HRW report said.
“The Qatari authorities’ fail­ure to put in place the most ba­sic protection from the heat, their decision to ignore recom­mendations that they investigate worker deaths and their refusal to release data on these deaths, con­stitute a wilful abdication of re­sponsibility.”
The report followed an incident in which a Nepalese migrant work­er was fired from his construction job after talking to a UN delegation investigating migrant worker con­ditions.
Agence France-Presse said the incident happened in March 2016 and led to the worker’s firing and deportation after he told the del­egation about unpaid wages and his employer confiscating his passport.
The UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) said it would in­vestigate the matter.
“The ILO has been following closely this case and continues to do so with a view to ensuring that the rights of this Nepalese worker are fully respected and protected,” said Corinne Vargha, director of the ILO’s International Labour Standards Department.
HRW called for transparency from Qatari authorities regarding deaths of migrant workers. The report said transparency issues made it difficult to assess wheth­er the extreme weather condi­tions were a factor in the workers’ deaths.
“A 2014 report that the Qatari government commissioned from the international law firm DLA Pip­er noted that the number of worker deaths in Qatar attributed to cardi­ac arrest, a general term that does not specify cause of death, was ‘seemingly high,’” HRW said.
The report said Qatar failed to implement two of the law firm’s recommendations: Introducing laws allowing autopsies in cases of unexpected or sudden deaths and to commission an independent study into the number of migrant worker deaths attributed to cardiac arrests.
Al-Rayah, a Qatari newspaper, carried a statement from the coun­try’s Supreme Committee for De­livery and Legacy stating: “Doha acknowledges the concerns raised by the watchdog” and that it was “committed to promoting and protecting the welfare, health and safety of all workers.” The state­ment did not address HRW’s main concerns.
Qatar’s road to hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup and its relationship with FIFA have been controversial since it won hosting duties in 2010. Pressure on Qatar increased in 2013 when Britain’s Guardian newspa­per said dozens of Nepalese had died while working on World Cup-related projects. Qatari and Nepali officials denied the report.
In 2014 Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper alleged former FIFA Executive Committee member Mo­hamed bin Hammam, a Qatari who was president of the Asian Football Confederation, lobbied on behalf of his country for the 2022 rights, paying millions of dollars in cash, gifts and junkets, especially to Af­rican officials.
Qatar is also involved in a dis­pute with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, which have cut ties with Doha, in­cluding travel routes important to Qatar’s economy, compounding Doha’s World Cup financing issues.