In a release, Amnesty International says Qatar is not respecting its commitments to protect rights. To do so, the authorities must scrap the sponsorship system, which allows employers to limit employees’ right to travel, including domestic workers, via the ‘exist permit’.
Doha (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Despite promises, Qatar is failing to meet its obligations to improve the working conditions of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, many of whom are employed at construction sites of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In its latest release, Amnesty International notes that despite changes, workers live “appalling conditions”. For the human rights' organisation's deputy director of global issues Stephen Cockburn, "Time is running out if the Qatari authorities want to deliver a legacy, we can all cheer - namely a labour system that ends the abuse and misery inflicted upon so many migrant workers every day.”
Although acknowledging that "Qatari authorities have been taking some important steps to protect labour rights,” Cockburn insists that “much more needs to be done,” starting with the complete abolition of the kafala system, which ties workers to their employers for long periods of time.
Some reforms have been introduced in the past two years, like a temporary minimum wage and the establishment of courts to settle labour disputes, in addition to the creation of an insurance fund. However, being forced to work remains an ever-present threat, as are travel restrictions and human rights abuses.
Some 175,000 domestic workers are, for example, still required to ask for an "exit permit" from their employer to leave the country. And they are not alone. Qatar is home to about 1.5 and 2 million migrant workers, many from Asia employed in the construction sector.
What is more, for more than a year, the small Gulf state has been embroiled in a political, diplomatic and economic face-off with its big neighbour, Saudi Arabia, which has pushed it to seek closer ties with Iran, which has offered to help with the World Cup.
In 2017, reports emerged about workers being abused and their rights violated during the construction of stadiums, casting a dark shadow on the country. Eventually, investigations were undertaken abut led to nothing.