UN sets Nov deadline for Qatar to end abuse of migrants

  • Warns of investigation if new labour reforms not implemented
- Post Report, Kathmandu
Qatar is home to around half a million Nepalis, and the Arab state hired 129,038 workers from Nepal in 2015-16 to become the second largest recipient of Nepali migrants after Saudi Arabia in the region

Mar 24, 2017-

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has given yet another eight months to Qatar to implement new labour reforms designed to end abuse of migrant workers.

The United Nations agency dealing with labour issues said on Tuesday that it is deferring until November a decision on whether to investigate Qatar for forced labour violations involving migrant workers. Failure to do so could mean the Gulf country would potentially face an investigation by the UN labour watchdog in the lead up to hosting the 2022 World Cup. Around 90 percent of the Gulf state’s 2.5 million population are migrant workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

Qatar is home to around half a million Nepalis, and the Arab state hired 129,038 workers from Nepal in the fiscal year 2015-16, becoming the second largest recipient of Nepali migrants after Saudi Arabia.

Many of the migrants in Qatar are working to build stadiums and infrastructure for the 2022 Fifa World Cup, and Doha has faced severe criticisms in recent year for exploiting the workers, with rights activists and trade unions complaining about abuses like low pay, squalid living conditions, poor health and safety standards and migrants having their salaries withheld and passports confiscated. 

According to Reuters, the ILO late on Tuesday said that it had noted recent measures by Qatar to improve the plight of migrant workers, but asked the Gulf state to provide further information on labour reforms. “The Governing Body decides to request the Government of Qatar to continue to provide information ... on further measures to effectively implement (a law) relating to the entry, exit and residence of migrant workers,” the ILO said in a report.

The UN last year in March 2016 had given Qatar a year to end migrant worker slavery. 

In December last year, Qatar announced the end of its controversial “kafala” system, touted as the biggest labour reform undertaken by Gulf emirate. “Kafala is now replaced with ‘a modernised, contract-based system that safeguards workers’ rights and increases job flexibility’,” Doha had said, describing the move as a latest step towards improving and protecting the rights of every expatriate worker in the Gulf emirate. 

“Kafala” is labour sponsorship system that forces foreign workers to seek their employer’s permission to change jobs or leave the country, meaning an individual’s right to work and legal presence in the host country is dependent on his or her employer, rendering him or her vulnerable to exploitation. 

Reuters reported that the ILO’s executive has asked Doha for details on reforms related to domestic workers and the status of committees to resolve workers’ disputes by its next meeting in November—when it will decide whether to appoint a commission to probe abuses.

Published: 24-03-2017 08:08

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