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Blue-collar expats in Qatar enjoy safe and fair treatment at work and are free to travel outside of the country, according to a new video published by the labor ministry.
The six-minute film shows smiling workers living in clean, uncrowded bedrooms. They appear to be equipped in full safety gear on construction sites and are picked up by private cars when heading to the airport.
In the video, the narrator also talks about “freedom to travel.”
Making no mention of Qatar’s exit permit system, he says workers can “move when necessary according to what is stipulated in their job contracts.”
But some rights advocates have found the film to be more aspirational than realistic.
Speaking to Doha News, Nicholas McGeehan of Human Rights Watch said:
“I’d say that the video is a fine example of how the labor system should work, but unfortunately it bears no relation to how the labor system actually works.
In general it presents Qatar as some sort of workers’ paradise. Unfortunately Qatar is still a country where migrant workers are routinely abused and systematically exploited.”
The video comes as Qatar steps up its marketing efforts amid a vicious media campaign by its neighbors.
Over the past two months, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt have accused Qatar of funding terrorists.
They have also alleged the country is fomenting instability in the region and even accused it of not respecting migrant rights.
But this is nothing short of the pot calling the kettle black, according to James Lynch, deputy head of global issues at Amnesty International.
In an op-ed published in Newsweek yesterday, Lynch lambasted the “jaw-breaking hypocrisy” of the boycotting countries for pointing out Qatar’s migrant labor issues.
He mentioned “scandalous” working conditions in the UAE and stranded employees in Saudi Arabia who eventually had to be rescued by the Indian government last year.
Tip: When under fire from total hypocrites about a real & serious issue, don't try to claim everything is just hunky dory. https://t.co/7LKPthCTQO
— James Lynch (@jpmlynch) July 31, 2017
However, Lynch also urged Qatar to put less energy into promoting itself as a champion of human rights. Instead, authorities should spend time actually reforming its laws, he said.
Speaking to Doha News about the ministry’s new video, Lynch added:
“It unsurprisingly gives no sense of the reality for far too many workers, with exploitative and coercive employers using their powers under the sponsorship system to keep people working under what can be grim conditions.”
He concluded by saying the best way to convince Qatar’s detractors that it is serious about reform is to actually offer it.