Qatar claims ‘isolated wage abuse cases’ despite rights reports, recent labor protest

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Qatar’s government claims only a minority of workers ever “experience any form of wage abuse” despite several international reports from the UN and rights groups saying otherwise, as well as a recent protest by labor workers over unpaid salaries.

“Nearly all individuals who come to Qatar for employment never experience any form of wage abuse. There are a few, isolated, instances where workers experience this issue,” Qatar’s Government Communications Office said in a statement on Monday following the publication of a report.

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The report highlighted Qatar’s failure to protect migrant workers from wage and rights abuses across various occupations and showed that the Qatari government has not taken enough measures to carry out much-needed labor reforms.

Migrant workers walk on the corniche in Doha, Qatar April 14, 2017. (Reuters)
Migrant workers walk on the corniche in Doha, Qatar April 14, 2017. (Reuters)

“We never heard about these issues in real time or in any of our engagement with them. If notice had taken place earlier, the government would have worked to address the issues raised by the workers interviewed in the report,” the Qatari government added.

The Qatari described the report as “backward-looking” that “does little to address the specific challenges raised by the workers.”

“Qatar’s labor program protects all workers in all stages of their employment cycle. The success of our approach is evident in the achievements we have made to date and the positive impact it is having on hundreds of thousands of workers and those reliant on their income,” Qatar’s Government Communications Office added in its statement.

The latest statement runs contrary to recent cases of workers claiming they have not received their salaries, often times at lower rates compared to when they initially signed their contracts.

Recently, migrant laborers staged a protest in Qatar over their unpaid wages, with images on social media showing more than 100 men at the time blocking a main road in the Msheireb district of the capital Doha late on May 22, clapping and chanting as police looked on.

A month later in June, a Qatari company helping build a 2022 World Cup stadium was banned from the event's projects after its laborers went unpaid for months, in a case Amnesty International said showed inadequate worker welfare standards.

A recent report by Human Rights Watch titled “‘How Can We Work Without Wages?’: Salary Abuses Facing Migrant Workers Ahead of Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022” documented testimonies from migrant workers across various jobs from construction workers and security guards to baristas and bouncers.

Laborers' accommodation is pictured in Sanaya Industrial Area in Doha March 28, 2014. (Reuters)
Laborers' accommodation is pictured in Sanaya Industrial Area in Doha March 28, 2014. (Reuters)

Read more:

Expatriate laborers stage protest in Qatar over unpaid wages

Qatar labor reforms still have way to go: UN expert

Indian migrant workers in Qatar make plea for repatriation

Corruption within Qatar’s sporting ambitions also stems from the top, when a Guardian report earlier in January revealed that Qatar’s newly appointed Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa al-Thani was connected to an allegedly corrupt deal meant to bring top sports events to the country.

Al-Thani, a member of Qatar’s royal family who also serves as interior minister, allegedly discussed a money transfer agreement with “disgraced” International Association Athletics Federation (IAAF) marketing consultant Papa Massata Diack just before a $3.4 million payment was made.

'More work to be done'

Last September, independent UN rights expert Obiora Okafor said Qatar still has a lot more work to do to improve conditions for migrant workers who are unable to leave freely and are sometimes denied days off or phones.

The recent global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has compounded the problems for many of Qatar’s migrant workers who suddenly found themselves without jobs and shelter. Indian migrant workers in Qatar, saying they have faced problems, including job loss, lack of accommodation and food, have asked on Twitter for their embassy to help repatriate them. One video showed Indian migrants standing in a long line outside the embassy in Doha.

By its own admission, Qatar confirmed nine workers had died between February 2019 to December 2019, according to a report by Qatar World Cup 2022’s Supreme Committee via its Workers’ Welfare Progress Report.

While the total number of workers’ deaths on projects building the World Cup stadiums cannot be independently verified, the Indian embassy in Qatar placed the number at more than 500 Indian migrant workers, according to the official figures it released.

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