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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Nepal’s government seeks answers from Qatar after labor abuse report



In response to last week’s Guardian report detailing labor abuses of Nepali expats in Qatar, Nepal’s Department of Foreign Employment has ordered embassy representatives here to investigate working conditions of its nationals and take steps to protect them, a Nepali newspaper has said.

According to Kantipur, the Doha mission has been told to report back to the government on the welfare of Nepali expats, before the country itself takes any action.

The newspaper quotes a senior official from the Ministry of Labor and Employment as saying the government is aware of labor rights violations, but cannot bar workers from going there:

“We know an increasing number of people are dying across the Gulf countries, not only in Qatar. But we are not in a position to bar them from going there. Many walk overland and fly from Delhi, India.”

Meanwhile, the National reports that the Nepali embassy in Abu Dhabi is rejecting the visas of nearly a dozen Nepali workers a day, in a bid to protect them from exploitation and trafficking.

The newspaper adds that in August, 35 government officials in Nepal were arrested for reportedly sending 77 workers to Qatar illegally by forging their documents.

Representatives of the Nepali mission in Doha could not be reached for comment.

The embassy here is awaiting a letter from its government ordering the recall of its controversial ambassador, Dr. Maya Kumari Sharma. The Cabinet last week decided to recall her less than halfway into her term in part over remarks she made earlier this year, calling Qatar an “open jail.”

Mixed reaction

Wednesday’s Guardian’s investigation included video footage of unhygienic conditions in labor camps, men seeking shelter from their sponsors in a crowded villa behind the Nepali embassy, and interviews with the family members of a 16-year-old boy who died after forging paperwork and working in Qatar for six weeks.

Qatar residents have responded to the piece with ambivalence. Many have said that more needs to be done to shore up safety on construction sites and improve working and living conditions for low-income expats.

But others argued that the story, whose findings were similar to a Human Rights Watch report released last year, painted an unfairly dismal picture of Qatar, at a time when its 2022 World Cup bid is being scrutinized because of the summer heat and corruption allegations.

FIFA’s executive committee, which will meet this week to discuss whether the 2022 games should be moved from the summer to the cooler winter months, has also added Qatar’s labor woes to its agenda.


Credit: Photo for illustrative purposes only by Richard Messenger

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