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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Police arrest 12 laborers in Qatar following repatriation dispute

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The fire at a labor camp earlier this month.
The fire at a labor camp earlier this month.

A dozen Sri Lankan expats displaced by a massive labor camp fire earlier this month have been arrested and are expected to be deported from Qatar after apparently refusing to go to work last week.

However, a spokesperson for their employer, Seven Group, said the arrested men were not punished for failing to report to work. Instead, they stand accused of setting fires in their new labor camp, and for blocking some of their colleagues from going to work and accessing food supplies.

The detained men were among some 400 expats living in Sailiya who lost most of their possessions in this month’s fire. There were unconfirmed reports that two men died in the fire, which one of the labor camp tenants said he believed was caused by an electrical fault.

A community leader with knowledge of the incident told Doha News that the arrested men were among more than 100 individuals who effectively quit their jobs after the accident.

Wishing for home

Speaking to Doha News, the Seven Group manager said approximately 150 employees asked to be sent home in the aftermath of the fire, but did not give a specific reason why they wanted to terminate their employment.

According to the community leader, the fire was the latest in a string of frustrations for the men, which included disagreements with their employer about overtime and visa renewals, among other issues.

Seven Group provides workers to clean and serve drinks in offices around Qatar, and has several long-term contracts with government entities. The manager said that faced with a sudden employee exodus, the company asked the men to stay on for a while longer as replacement workers were hired.

There were also logistical issues surrounding processing so many termination requests.

Hamad International Airport
Hamad International Airport

“We don’t have a private plane to fly them (home),” he said.

He added that the 100 or so workers began protesting when they were not sent home immediately.

However, the community leader following this case said the employees had grown distrustful of their company and simply refused to return to work.

“They were not protesting … This has gone out of proportion,” he said.

According to an official from the Sri Lankan embassy, some 115 workers refused to show up for work on Thursday. That same day, police officers went to the camp and arrested 12 men. The embassy official said he was not aware why those specific men were targeted.

The labor camp fire earlier this month.
The labor camp fire earlier this month.

The Seven Group manager said the company would honor the requests of the workers who want to return home and would pay them their remaining wages and end-of-service benefits. He estimated that the company could repatriate around 100 expats a month.

Following the fire, the men were relocated to temporary accommodation in the Industrial Area for a day before being moved into a labor camp in Al Shahaniya in central Qatar.

An official from their embassy said he had inspected and approved the new housing.

“There’s no reason for them to refuse work, because the company provided them with good accommodations,” the embassy official said.

He said he did not know why the men were refusing the work.

Previous incidents

It’s remains unclear whether the police arrested the workers due to the the arson allegations or over the notion that the men were refusing to work, as strike action is considered illegal in Qatar.

Such labor action is a rare occurrence in Qatar. Local laws make it effectively impossible for non-Qataris to strike, and authorities are highly sensitive to dissent within its large foreign workforce.

A crowd gathers last November at the labor accommodations of hundreds of expats who have gone on strike over pay conditions.
A crowd gathers last November at the labor accommodations of hundreds of expats who have gone on strike over pay conditions.

Nevertheless, there have been a handful of incidents in recent years, including Al Million taxi drivers protesting the daily fees they must pay their employer, as well as bus drivers refusing to shuttle students to school in September 2013 after their demands for higher wages and better treatment were denied.

And last November, roughly 100 construction workers were arrested in the Industrial Area after they went on strike.

The men told Doha News they were being paid less than they had been promised in their home country before they moved to Qatar.

Few options

Human rights advocates have previously argued that it should be easier for foreign workers in Qatar to file grievances and seek redress from their employers.

Lacking alternatives, low-income workers often feel they have no other option but to strike, Human Rights Watch researcher Nick McGeehan previously told Doha News.

MOLSA complaint machine
MOLSA complaint machine

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has taken steps to address this by, for example, installing multilingual kiosks last summer at a half-dozen of its branches that allow individuals to lodge a complaint electronically.

Expats also have the option of filing a case in labor court, where they often receive a favorable ruling, US researcher Andrew Gardner said in a report late last year.

However, that’s only if they “make it to the finish line,” he said, noting that many individuals encounter hurdles in pursuing their case.

Challenges include understanding how to approach the justice system, language barriers, finding transportation to hearings and, in some cases, not having any income as their case proceeds.

Thoughts?

40 COMMENTS

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Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed

Local laws make it effectively impossible for ANYBODY to strike…

MIMH
MIMH
5 years ago

It is illegal for exapts and locals have to get permission to form unions and go on strike.

Gracie
Gracie
5 years ago

Oh dear, I found this statement on the Hukoomi website which seems to be completely untrue.

“Qatari workers may form workers committees and join larger trade unions.
Strikes are allowed as long as they follow the rules of the Labor Law”.

Pete
Pete
5 years ago
Reply to  Gracie

That’s referring to Qatari citizens.

Scarletti
Scarletti
5 years ago
Reply to  Pete

if so then it is racist and blatant about it ! disgusting

Pete
Pete
5 years ago
Reply to  Scarletti

Not really..I think any country is entitled to offer benefits to citizens that don’t have to apply to all residents.

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
5 years ago
Reply to  Pete

The Right to Strike isn’t a “benefit”, it’s a “right”. They get nothing from it other than voicing their opinion and trying to negotiate better conditions from the mostly greedy companies. Laborers’ rights don’t exist in Qatar.

Pete
Pete
5 years ago

You’re missing my point. The poster claimed it was racist and I’m merely commenting that it’s common practice for nationals to get benefits that others don’t. Having said that, the right to strike is not an immutable right. In any country it’s a matter of law in the country concerned in which case it can be applied as they see fit. Personally I support the right to strike.

johnny wang
johnny wang
5 years ago

Yeah fine., does it make it also impossible for them to pack up their bags and leave or its part of the process to keep them suspended in air, neither here nor there

MIMH
MIMH
5 years ago

They are not your prisoners, if they want to go home then they should be allowed to go home. Saying you don’t have a private plane is disgusting as an excuse, there are flights every day to Sri Lanka and I am sure over a two week period you can repartriate them all.

They are not going on strike demaning better pay and conditions, they are refusing to work because they want to go home. Saying they cannot refuse work means you are classifying them as slaves.

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
5 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Even if you have to go home there are procedures. You are supposed to give 3 month notice to the company.

johnny wang
johnny wang
5 years ago

Well lets just say the workers have lost confidence with their company and they don’t want to continue any longer. Now can they please go home like decent human beings because they just don’t want to continue

Pete
Pete
5 years ago

One month according to Qatar law.

Mohamad Wahba
Mohamad Wahba
5 years ago
Reply to  Pete

exactly, not 3 months

Jen
Jen
5 years ago

They lost all their possessions in a horrible fire and have had problems with the company as well. Expecting them to remain for 3 months is insensitive. These are human beings with thoughts, emotions and needs -they have faced and now face even more trauma. They should be allowed to go and in view of the circumstances and showing concern for them the notice period should be waived.

The Reporter
The Reporter
5 years ago
Reply to  Jen

I don’t think that the word compassion appears in either the Labor Law or the Kafala, and those are the documents from which employers take their guidance.

Observant One
Observant One
5 years ago
Reply to  Jen

The only true human is Qatari, the rest of you are animals to be treated as such…..know your place or we will imprison you…….sound familiar…

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
5 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

Deleting for stereotyping…

kdineshl
kdineshl
5 years ago

ha! what designations do they have in that company? directors, CEOs, COOs, etc to have 3 months notice periods? wake up!

Waveydavey
Waveydavey
5 years ago

You’re all heart!!

MIMH
MIMH
5 years ago

In most countries if you decide you don’t want to work with your company anymore and don’t give the proper notice you are subject to the company’s discplinary procedures which will be terminantion of employment. In Qatar you get arrested by the police.
Employment is exchange of services/labour for remuneration on mutally agreed terms. Anything else is slavery.

Gaus
Gaus
5 years ago

Did you read their employment contracts? Can you let us know something about other terms as well?

Ms. Hala
5 years ago

Qatar law requires you to give a 30 day notice unless you signed a contract asking that you give 60 or 90 days as some companies do for specific professions. So technically, you can’t just quit, walk off and fly home the next day.

Akmal farah
Akmal farah
5 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Wrong! they are prisoners and their life needs to be sacrificed to build this fine rich land. Stadiums will not build themselves and no Al-Thani was born to burn 1 calorie of effort on anything besides eating, driving and …..!

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
5 years ago

How did the fire come up. Was it short circuit or did some one deliberately do it.

Gaus
Gaus
5 years ago

Are you working for that company as Super- Visor?

Critic
Critic
5 years ago

The year is 2015, not 1015. Individuals have the right to refuse to go to work and accept the (proportional) consequences such as pay cut or dismissal. What is not acceptable however is to practically imprison someone because they refuse to work. If they have been arrested on suspicion of arson or a similar crime then the authorities have every right (and responsibility) to pursue the due judicial process fairly. If however they are being arrested simply because they refuse to work and wish to return home then their sponsors – who are refusing them this basic right of returning home – are the ones that should be arrested.

What I find astonishing however is the response from the embassy “There’s no reason for them to refuse work, because the company provided them with good accommodations” as if this is the only factor that can make you hate your work. I feel sorry for them if this how their embassy officials think.

Expat77
Expat77
5 years ago
Reply to  Critic

All labour supplying Embassies behave the same way…as colonial rulers over their fellow citizens..

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
5 years ago
Reply to  Critic

I long ago gave up, it is the Qatari way. It is how they run and design their society. They could change it if they wished, they do not. It is just who they are. No sense asking why.

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
5 years ago
Reply to  Anonymouse

Deleting for stereotyping.

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
5 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

You ever stop and think long and hard about your biases and the stereotype that you fulfill? It might be enlightening.

Mohamad Wahba
Mohamad Wahba
5 years ago

so u guys eat this piece of crab?? this is what they have to tell to the public audience.. government is cruel with laborers

Waveydavey
Waveydavey
5 years ago
Reply to  Mohamad Wahba

I love crab. 😉

The Reporter
The Reporter
5 years ago

No doubt those 12 arrested had dared to put their head above the parapet and speak out on behalf of the others – with the same consequences as in any other totalitarian police state, “Pour encourager les autres” as Voltaire put it.

Waveydavey
Waveydavey
5 years ago

They did not specify a reason for terminating their contract. How inconsiderate of them. Leaving a multi million riyal company struggling to find some other plane load of men to exploit!! How very dare they!!

Waveydavey
Waveydavey
5 years ago

Crab sushi…mmmmm

Observant One
Observant One
5 years ago

I’m going to say it Shabina…..Slavery is all it is pure and simple, slavery.

Mehrea
5 years ago

Endless stories of exploitation! You will be silenced before you start complaining in the Labor Department. There’s is a strong reason behind the strike. One of the main reason is a monthly salary. Some companies live on poor labor man’s sweat. Go and enquire in insudstrial area residents and you will know why. If you complain about your salary with comparison what you do to the company, you will get a stubborn response ” if you want to work, you work otherwise go to your home country!” Everyone lives in fear, fear of deportation! No one wants to take responsibility and talk what’s going on in the open. Fear! No one wants to be terminated and sent back home or systematically deported. I say deported because you are not allowed to switch company. If you’re terminated, it means back home unwilling.

Anon
Anon
5 years ago

Look at that ‘complaint machine’…..doesn’t really inspire confidence, does it? I can imagine it is some grim, dystopian movie, especially Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’……

Akmal farah
Akmal farah
5 years ago

One fire that caused no damage had 12 prosecuted.
One fire that caused 12 kids get killed, 0 prosecuted.

In the name of the Lord, can someone explain….

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