'Limited progress' on worker rights in Qatar, says Amnesty International

27 May 2015

The Qatari government has made only limited progress in improving rights for migrant workers, according to Amnesty International.

In a briefing paper, the human rights organisation assessed progress on a number of migrant labour issues, a year after the Qatari government promised reforms.

The report, Promising little, delivering less: Qatar and migrant labour abuse ahead of the 2022 Football World Cup, provides a “scorecard” that rates the response to nine fundamental migrant labour rights issues identified by the NGO.

They include the use of exit permits that allow employers to stop workers leaving the country, late or non-payment of wages, obstacles to access justice for victims of labour exploitation, and denial of the right to form or join a trade union.

The briefing paper claims that only limited progress has been achieved on five issues, and in four areas the authorities have failed to make any improvements at all.

Amnesty International said over the past 12 months, little has changed in law, policy and practice for the more than 1.5 million migrant workers in Qatar.

According to the briefing, there has been no progress on changing the “kafala” sponsorship system and use of exit permits, which campaigners and critics say prohibit worker mobility and leaves workers at the mercy of employers.

The introduction of an electronic wage system to change the way migrants’ salaries are paid, proposed by the government last year, is still being implemented. Amnesty International said that many migrants have complained of late or non-payment of wages.

It also claimed Qatar had failed to meet its target to have 300 labour inspectors in place by the end of last year. There has been only limited progress on measures to improve safety on construction sites, regulate exploitative recruitment agencies and improve access to justice for victims of labour exploitation, the briefing said.

Amnesty International Gulf migrant rights researcher Mustafa Qadri said that Qatar was failing migrant workers.

“Last year the government made promises to improve migrant labour rights in Qatar, but in practice, there have been no significant advances in the protection of rights.”

He added: “With Qatar’s construction boom continuing and the migrant worker population set to expand to 2.5 million, the need for urgent reform is more pressing than ever.”

Amnesty International also want football government body FIFA to prioritise the issue of exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar and call on the Qatari authorities to implement effective reforms.

Qadri said: “FIFA has spent much time, money and political capital investigating alleged corruption in the Russia and Qatar World Cup bids, and agonising over the scheduling of the tournament. But the organisation has yet to demonstrate any real commitment to ensuring Qatar 2022 is not built on a foundation of exploitation and abuse.”

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