By Ghallia Halabi
The truth behind Qatar’s beautiful infrastructure and family-oriented culture is that many workers’ human rights are being violated behind the scenes. Human rights violations against migrant workers are an ongoing issue in many countries that do not receive enough attention. Currently, the focus is on Qatar as they will be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, yet a serious issue faced by migrant workers is neglected who without the hard work of Qatar would not be what it is. This article brings attention to the injustices faced by migrant workers. Primarily the human rights violations for individuals working in unsafe and extreme temperatures to build Qatar’s infrastructure and the domestic workers that take care of the family and complete all household chores that are subjected to inhumane treatment.
Migrant workers’ rights are not protected when they work on building stadiums, hotels, railways, and more. Amnesty International UK’s article, “Qatar: thousands of migrant worker deaths remain uninvestigated – new report” demonstrates even with evidence of the link between deaths, and unsafe high-temperature working conditions, Qatari authorities have not investigated the thousands of deaths that occurred over the past decade. Amnesty’s report demonstrates Qatari authorities consistently issuing death certificates without properly investigating the deaths. Consequently, the deaths are claimed to be due to natural causes or cardiac failures. Qatar pledged to reform its labor system in 2017; however, little progress has been made.
Solutions suggested by Amnesty International UK is for Qatar to increase protection by implementing labour laws to protect workers from extreme heat. Amnesty International UK suggests this can be done by requiring breaks in accordance with the risks workers face and for deaths to be investigated, authorized, and compensate the families for the migrant workers deaths. According to Amnesty International UK, migrant workers’ right to life is not protected. One solution would be to get Qatar to be part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to ensure the protection of human rights is met.
Despite laws being implemented to protect workers; domestic workers are another group vulnerable to abusive work conditions. The Amnesty International report, “Why do you want rest?” demonstrates that in 2017 a new Domestic Workers Law was implemented nevertheless women continue to face unethical working conditions in private homes isolated from the public. The report reveals domestic workers typically work 14 to 18 hours a day with little to no rest, many are verbally, sexually, emotionally, and/or physically abused and not paid on time or sometimes not at all. The violations against domestic workers have also been overlooked by the government.
Although laws governing migrant workers have been reformed there are continuous limitations. According to Amnesty International, Qatar ended the No-Objection Certificate requirement in 2020, but workers cannot change jobs until after six-month probation and they must give a one- or two-month notice. In addition, as of 2020 the exit permit was no longer required; however, domestic workers are still required to inform their employer before leaving and risk being accused of “absconding” or theft that may lead to arrest and deportation. Interviews conducted by Amnesty International demonstrate women who were accused of theft were required to remain in Qatar for months without pay to await the outcome of investigations that determined their fate. A common problem pointed out by Amnesty International is recruitment agencies taking migrant workers passports upon arrival and giving them to their employer. Therefore, the kafala system is reformed but there continues to be limited options available for domestic workers to escape abuse as they are still under the control of their employer.
Not enough is being done to support and protect workers. Recommendations proposed by Amnesty International are for the Qatari government to hold perpetrators account; support domestic workers by granting them an accessible outlet to report abuses of employers and recruiters; decriminalizing “absconding” and end the detention of migrant workers for breaching Sponsorship Law; and to be included in Labour Law and the Wage Protection System. These are a few of the many ways to protect against the inhumane treatment of domestic workers by employers.
Migrant workers move away from their families to seek employment to provide for themselves and their families to live a comfortable life and instead they are faced with exploitation. The psychological and physical abuse faced by migrant workers must no longer be ignored by the Qatari government. International intervention is necessary to exert pressure on Qatar’s government, as Amnesty International seeks to accomplish. Qatar has more than enough resources (highest GDP in the world) to ensure migrant workers rights are safeguarded. Being a visually appealing country is not enough as what matters is the equality of people.
Ghallia Halabi – Second Year LLB Law (Graduate Programme)