09/21/2019, 08.00
QATAR
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In Qatar, hundreds of unpaid foreign workers forced to go home

Migrants were employed in the construction and services sectors for companies that were not necessarily involved with the 2022 FIFA World Cup, an marred by allegations of rights violations. Government and activists are at loggerheads over fund designed to compensate workers.

 

Doha (AsiaNews) – Hundreds of migrant workers in Qatar have gone without pay and many have been forced to go home without compensation, this despite recent reforms intended to improve worker rights, a report from Amnesty International (AI) said on Thursday. 

Since it was chosen to host for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar has come under fire for what rights groups describe as poor labour conditions. Qatari authorities have responded by enacting a broad reform programme to protect worker rights and improve its image abroad. But it has not been enough.

The Gulf state relies on about 2 million migrant workers for the bulk of its labour force, mainly from Asian countries like Nepal, India and the Philippines. 

In the last two years, reforms have been adopted, including an insurance policy, a minimum wage, an end to exit visas and the introduction of dispute resolution committees to fast-track complains over unpaid wages. Yet, some NGOs still report that hundreds of workers have not yet been paid by “unscrupulous employers".

The Amnesty report documents three Qatari companies that allegedly failed to pay more than 2,000 workers, leading 1,620 of them to submit complaints to the Committees for the Settlement of Labour Disputes. 

The workers were employed by companies involved in construction and cleaning services not directly related to World Cup projects. Most of them “went home with nothing. None of the workers received compensation through the committee system”. 

For its part, the Qatari Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs told Amnesty International that they had helped negotiate many of these settlements. 

In October 2018 Qatar announced the creation of a support fund for worker compensation, but critics point out that it “remains unfunded and unused, despite the urgent need.

For the past two years, Qatar has been at the centre of a political, diplomatic and economic storm pinning it against other Gulf countries, in particular Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The clash with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi brought Doha closer to Tehran, which offered help in organising the World Cup.

This crisis raised the possibility that the sporting event could be moved. Reports about the construction of stadiums highlighted very serious rights abuses and violations. However, the investigations and charges. Which date back to 2017, went nowhere.

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