SAAPE Denounces The Deportation Of Migrant Workers In Qatar

SAAPE denounces the deportation of migrant workers in Qatar

27 August, 2022

The members of South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) condemn the heinous act on part of the Qatari government to arrest and deport the migrant workers from Egypt, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and the Philippines for taking part in the protest on 14 August 2022 demanding the timely payment of their accrued wages.[1] SAAPE members note that this is one of the deplorable events in a series of incidents of human rights abuses against over two million migrant workers who have contributed their ‘sweat and blood’ in the economy of Qatar, especially in building the ‘world-class stadiums and cities’ for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Qatar has immensely benefited from the labour of migrant workers and more so for organising the 2022 FIFA World Cup which kicks off in less than 90 days. Poor migrant workers, due to lack of employment opportunities in the home country, are bound to sign up for working in searing heat and terrible conditions, bonded to their employer, with few arrangements of social security measures and little concern for workers’ rights. Since 2010, when FIFA controversially awarded Qatar the 2022 World Cup, more than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar to build stadiums and modern infrastructure in the desert land. [2]

Qatar, since it won its bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has introduced several legal reforms to prevent the abuse of migrant workers, that include scrapping of the kafala system, a rule that required employers’ consent for the change of jobs, and the increment of minimum monthly wage from 750 Qatari Riyals to 1,000 Qatari Riyals. [3] Nevertheless, the inhumane treatment continues which was even more severe during the time of the COVID-19 lockdowns when the migrant workers in Qatar were abruptly laid off and detained due to which they had to return in expensive chartered flights, the flight cost being multiple times the normal fare. [4] The persistent and widespread abuses of migrant workers in the form of delayed wages, punitive and illegal wage deductions, and months of unpaid wages for long hours of gruelling work indicate that despite the scrapping of kafala system and increase in monthly wage, the barbarous working conditions and the unfree recruitment that still prevail make the work qualify for ‘forced labour’ [5] and ‘bonded labour’. [6]

Qatar has been a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO) since 1972 and has ratified two important ILO conventions on forced labour: Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105). [7] By being a member of the ILO, Qatar is also required to be committed and obligated to follow the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work that include the basic values of freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; and a safe and healthy working environment, among others. While Qatar has openly flouted the fundamental principles of these ILO conventions to which it is a signatory, the ILO has remained a mute spectator to the ongoing modern-day slavery in Qatar raising doubts over its commitment to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities and enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues.

We demand that the Qatari government, respecting the rightful demands of the migrant workers, take back charges against the protesting workers and arrange for timely payment of wages and salaries, provide social security measures along with medical and life insurance, and establish a participative grievance handling mechanism to address the just demands of the migrant workers. The latest case is just one of the incidents showing that the recent labour reforms carried out by the Government of Qatar, with support from the International Labour Organization, is inadequate and incomplete. In this regard, we are deeply concerned by the lack of response and pressure from the ILO, a United Nations body with a mandate to maintain international labour standards, to enforce upon the principles of fair recruitment, decent working conditions, and the rights of collective bargaining for migrant workers in Qatar to which the Government of Qatar has agreed in several of the ILO conventions. We demand that the ILO carry out an independent investigation into the recent case of labour rights violation and come out with a time bound report.

We also deeply regret the silence of Fédération International de Football Association (FIFA) which has clear commitments under its own statutes and responsibilities under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to remedy the human rights abuses to which it has contributed. Denouncing the rampant use of forced labour especially in preparation for the FIFA World Cup 2022, we urge the Qatari authorities and the FIFA to immediately compensate workers for the series of human rights violations against them and establish a comprehensive and participative remedy programme in close consultation with origin country governments, workers’ representatives and trade unions, and national and international civil society groups.
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[1] Alfahhad. R. [@ra21112] (2022, August 14).  مجموعة من العمال ينظمون احتجاج واضراب عن العمل في منطقة السد في #قطر بسبب حرمانهم من اجورهم وبسبب الاعمال الشاقه مع ارتفاع درجة حرارة الصيف. [Tweet; attached video]. Twitter.  https://twitter.com/ra21112/status/1558788728650436608

[2] Walker, C. (2022, January 9). The World Cup is BLOOD-STAINED and if Qatar and FIFA don’t account for the deaths of THOUSANDS of migrant workers in the Gulf state those dead men will haunt this year’s tournament and every one after it, warns lawyer. MailOnline. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/sportsnews/article-10321749/World-Cup-Qatar-BLOOD-STAINED-dead-migrant-workers-haunt-tournament-warns-lawyer.html

[3] Pattison, P. (2020, September 10). New labour law ends Qatar’s exploitative kafala system. The Guardian.  https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/sep/01/new-employment-law-effectively-ends-qatars-exploitative-kafala-system

[4] Sedhai, R. (2020, September 10). Migrant workers deported from Qatar without justification return home. The
Record. https://www.recordnepal.com/migrant-workers-deported-from-qatar-without-justification-return-home

[5] International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 29 defines the term forced or compulsory labour as ‘all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily’ (ILO 1930: Article 2, Chapter 1). The term ‘under the menace of any penalty’ in the definition does not necessarily mean any penal action but might include, as observed in many cases, the loss of rights or privileges on the part of workers. For the purpose of measurement, ILO uses three dimensions: unfree recruitment, work and life under duress, and impossibility of leaving one’s employer. Any employment is considered forced labour if any of the three dimensions is prevalent (Source: Mak, J.; Abramsky, T.; Sijapati, B.; Kiss, L. and Zimmerman, C. (2017) ‘What Is the Prevalence of and Associations with Forced Labour Experiences among Male Migrants from Dolakha, Nepal? Findings from a Cross-Sectional Study of Returnee Migrants’, BMJ Open 7.8).

[6] Bonded labour: describes a relationship between an employer and an employee in which the employee does not have the freedom to choose his or her employer and cannot negotiate the terms and conditions of his or her working arrangements (Source: Oosterhoff, P.; Sharma, B.P. and Burns, D. (2017) Participatory Statistics to Measure Prevalence in Bonded Labour Hotspots in Nepal: Report on Findings of the Baseline Study, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies).

[7] Ratifications for Qatar. (n.d.) International Labour Organization  https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:11200:0::NO::P11200_COUNTRY_ID:103429