Amnesty International (AI) has denounced that Qatar has “paralyzed” the changes it had promised to its labor system, while the “old abusive practices” against migrant labor They resurface just one year after the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
“Qatar is running out of time,” the organization has warned according to the results of the informe Reality Check 2021, which warns about the country’s failure to comply with its “promise” to abolish the kafala system (sponsorship-based labor law) and improve the protection of migrant workers.
Specifically, the aforementioned report has concluded that “the changes have been paralyzed for a year” while “Old abusive practices have resurfaced, which bring back the worst elements of kafala and undermine some of the recent reforms “, so that many workers still face a” harsh daily reality “despite the legal changes that were introduced since 2017.
With the World Cup approaching and Qatar’s human rights record “getting more and more attention”, Amnesty International has appealed to the Qatari authorities “Urgent” measures to “expedite the reform process before it is too late”.
“Time is running out, but it is not too late to go from paper to action. The time has come for the Qatari authorities to show their courage and fully embrace their own labor reform program“, has urged the director of the Global Affairs Program of Amnesty International, Mark Dummet.
Likewise, it has warned that “the progress made to date will have been in vain if Qatar opts for a weak application of the corresponding policies and does not hold those who commit abuses accountable. ”
“The apparent complacency of the authorities is leaving thousands of workers constantly exposed to the exploitation of unscrupulous employers, to which is added the inability to change jobs and withholding of wages on numerous occasions. Consequently, the hopes of reparation, compensation and justice are scarce, “he detailed. In this sense, he warned that after the World Cup, the” fate “of the workforce that remains in Qatar will be” even more uncertain. ”
Personnel “tied” to employers
The organization has pointed out that in August 2020, the country passed two laws to eliminate the restrictions that prevented migrant labor from leaving the country and changing jobs without permission from the employing entity, laws that, if properly applied, “could deal a serious blow to the kafala system.”
However, it continues to “tie” migrant personnel to their employers, as several workers have reported to Amnesty International who denounce “considerable obstacles” to change jobs and warn of the possibility of being expelled “summarily” the country if the employer is not satisfied.
The organization has also pointed to the reforms that Qatar initiated in 2017 to regulate the hours of domestic workers internally, labor courts to facilitate access to justice or a fund to contribute to the collection of withheld wages and a minimum wage, as well as two international human rights treaties – which do not include the right of migrant workers to organize.
However, AI has specified that all of the above has not been applied, which is why “the exploitation” of these workers continues.
“Although Qatar has eliminated the requirement to obtain the exit permit and the certificate of no objection for the majority of migrant labor, so that, in theory, they can leave the country and change jobs without the consent of their workers. sponsors, in practice a new process has emerged for the certificate of no objection and harmful aspects of the kafala system remain in force“, he has specified, to denounce that with it the “abusive” employers they can continue to “prevent migrant staff from changing jobs and thus control their legal situation.”
For example, Aisha, a worker in the hospitality sector, has told how her employer threatened her when she refused to sign a new contract with him, for which he requested to change employers, although his answer was that he either paid 6,000 Qatari riyals (about 1,450 euros), “more than five times his monthly salary”, for a certificate of no objection or, otherwise, it would be “returned to its place of origin”.
According to AI, the legal changes have allowed Aisha to freely change her job, although the complaint she filed with the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs was rejected.
Although the aforementioned certificate of no objection has been abolished, migrant worker aid organizations and Doha embassies have noted that “the failure to include some form of written authorization from the employer appears to increase the probability that a job change application will be rejected“.” In turn, this circumstance has led to a no objection certificate market, which allows unscrupulous employers to profit, “he lamented.
Other forms of “abuse”
In its analysis, Amnesty International has also noted that late payment and withholding of wages and other contractual benefits continue to be “very common forms of abuse” suffered by migrant labor in Qatar, which also has a access to justice “very limited”.
On the other hand, he recalled that in August of this year he documented the “passivity” of the Qatari authorities when investigating the death of thousands of migrant workers, despite the existence of a “demonstrated relationship between premature deaths and a lack of safety at work”.
“If Qatar makes any gesture to make it clear that it will not tolerate labor abuses, penalizes employers who break the law and protects labor rights, will offer us a championship that everyone can celebrate. But there is still a long way to go to get there, “said the organization.
Finally, he urged FIFA, as the organizer of the Soccer World Cup, to “live up to your responsibilities”, and “identify, prevent, mitigate and repair” Human Rights problems related to the championship, including those that affect people who work in sectors such as hospitality and transport.
At the same time, he has asked him to “raise his voice” to ask the Qatari government to “fulfill your labor reform program before the opening game of the Soccer World Cup. ”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.