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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Peninsula: For Qatar’s underprivileged, even running water and electricity are not a given

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In a few articles today, the Peninsula explores the living conditions of some of Qatar’s most underprivileged residents – namely, security guards at construction sites, and unskilled workers living here illegally.

In a country with extremely low unemployment rates and one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world, these expats’ lifestyles depict a side of Qatar that’s not often seen or heard – though a recent Human Rights Watch report points out the poor treatment is far too pervasive.

In the first article, Fazeena Saleem reports on the nomadic life of expats who are tasked with guarding construction sites for small firms.

No water, no lights

The men, usually hailing from South Asian countries, lack permanent accommodations and instead reside in small concrete structures near where they work, which changes regularly. These spaces normally do not have running water or electricity, the newspaper reports.

Under Qatar labor law, companies are required to provide all non-national workers with accommodations that meet a minimum standard. But regulations are not always enforced, as demonstrated by one watchmen’s situation, whose name has been changed to protect his identity:

During summers, Dipendra rigs up a makeshift hut out of wood and cloth next to this room as it is too hot to sleep inside the concrete structure. He earns QR700 a month and sends the major portion of his salary home, with plans to give his four daughters in marriage. 

“I have gone home only once during these six years, and then also the company deducted my salary. I have commitments to my family, so I continue to work here,” said Dipendra, who is illiterate and could not read his job contract.

In another article, Mohmmad Shoeb interviews expats living in Qatar illegally who reside in ramshackle accommodations because they say they cannot afford to pay more. They work in the black market by offering private taxi services and selling paan or fish to generate money to send home to their families.

Shoeb writes:

Nazrul Islam (not his real name), a Bangladeshi national, lives in a room that admeasures 300 square feet—a spacious one but he shares it with six others. He and his companions drive private taxis. The building which their room is part of is dilapidated and can come crashing like a pack of cards any moment.

The room is congested with three bunk-beds, a television set and a few other household items, leaving little space to walk around. A stench hangs in the air, so strong that it causes instant nausea.

One private taxi driver tells him:

“I can hardly afford to spend more than QR400 a month for accommodation. With the rising cost of living, saving money is becoming increasingly difficult now,” he says. “And due to long traffic snarls and more private transport companies with a growing fleet of taxis, our daily income is dwindling,” adds Guruwardane.

Meanwhile, the newspaper also reports that the Ministry of Labor has formed a guidance team to educate companies about their responsibilities under the labor law.

Read the full articles here and here to get a better picture of these men’s plights. 

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch

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