In an incident that once again calls the enforcement of Qatar’s labor laws into question, a Nepali hospitality worker at a local university has been jailed by police after his employer failed to provide him with a valid ID card.
His identification had expired, and was in the possession of the man’s company.
Pramesh Lamichane, 24, is an employee of Abraj Group Qatar, and has so far spent three nights in jail.
He has been working as an office assistant at Qatar University (QU), serving refreshments to staff and guests in one of the colleges.
Earlier this week, he was out shopping in Al Shahaniyah, near his company accommodation, when he was stopped by police and asked to show his Qatar ID card.
While it is not illegal for a resident not to carry his ID with him, he must be able to produce it when requested by an official.
Because he did not have the card, Lamichane was arrested and taken into custody at a nearby police station on Monday, his colleagues said.
Speaking to Doha News, an Abraj Group manager confirmed that Lamichane’s ID card had expired six months ago, and that the company had failed to renew it.
It is understood that the expat’s contract was due to finish imminently and he was expecting to return to Nepal soon.
A senior member of QU faculty apparently appealed to managers at the company to take action and help secure Lamichane’s release.
But the university has not yet commented publicly on this incident.
The police told Abraj that a representative of the firm had to provide them with his flight ticket home and end-of-service settlement before Lamichane would be freed.
The company’s administration and finance manager Nagi Dafalla told Doha News that their PRO went to the police station yesterday to do the paperwork.
However, as of this morning, he is still in custody with CID and will not be released until Dec. 1, when he will be escorted by police to the airport for his flight home, Dafalla confirmed.
“It is true he is in jail. His ID expired on May 5. It is our fault that we didn’t renew it. It is the company’s responsibility,” Dafalla said.
The manager also admitted that there were other Abraj employees working in the country with out-of-date ID cards, but that the company is now looking to renew them.
According to the firm’s online profile, Abraj Group Qatar employs around 5,000 staff across a range of sectors including construction, maintenance, hospitality, cleaning and real estate.
‘Cases like this shouldn’t happen’
International human rights organization Amnesty International said this incident raises questions about the enforcement of Qatar’s Labor Law. Speaking to Doha News, researcher Mustafa Qadri said:
“It is a really shocking and appalling case where a worker is punished not for any error on his part, but for one by his employer.
Qatar’s labor law does offer some basic protections for its workers and, by the letter of the law, cases like this shouldn’t happen. But there are gaps in the law, and situations like this are not uncommon.”
The organization also called on employers to hold their contractors accountable.
“This is not just an issue for the authorities, but also for the parent companies which create contracts with their subcontractors. They need to sit down with them to make sure situations like this don’t happen,” Qadri added.
Some large organizations in Qatar have already signaled an intention to hold their contractors to a higher standard than the minimum requirements set out in law.
Companies that do not provide the minimum living and working conditions to their employees are theoretically prohibited from winning contracts with either organization.
ID card rules
All expats in Qatar are required by law to carry a valid residence permit (RP) or visa. Along with the RP, residents are issued Qatar ID cards, which they typically need to show to gain access to government buildings and some compounds, as well as to set up and access banking services, utilities, phone networks and other day-to-day facilities.
The ID card is valid for the length of time of the RP and it is often the responsibility of the employer to renew staff RP and ID cards.
According to QU’s immigration handbook, for its own directly-appointed and sponsored staff, its Government Liaison Unit is responsible for renewing RPs and ID cards.
During random police checks in public areas, residents are sometimes asked to produce identification. Those who do not have their IDs with them can show them to police after retrieving them from home, for example.
Article 6 of Law 4 of 2009, which regulates expats’ sponsorship and residence rules, states that all residents should submit proof of residence or visa when required by the authorities. Article 52 of the same law applies a maximum QR10,000 fine for those who cannot present their IDs.
However, anecdotally, residents have reported in the past that police can arrest those who can’t produce a valid ID card.