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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Qatar sidesteps UN vote on forced labor

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Workers

Qatar, along with its Gulf neighbors, has abstained from a United Nations vote to endorse a treaty tackling forced labor that was overwhelmingly endorsed by other countries.

Aimed at modernizing provisions contained in a 1930 convention, the protocol compels signatories to prevent and eliminate compulsory labor. It also sanctions perpetrators and requires nations who ratify the document to protect and compensate victims.

The charter covers all workers globally, but the update places specific emphasis on migrant workers and ending human trafficking. also It specifically mentions the need to shield expat workers from fraudulent and abusive recruitment practices.

Forced labor can take many forms, including women and girls compelled into domestic work and exploited for commercial sexual purposes. The International Labor Organisation broadly defines forced labor as any service provided under the threat of penalty that the worker is not performing voluntarily.

In a report on Qatar’s construction sector last year, Amnesty International documented several cases of abuse that it said met the definition of forced labor.

These include physical abuse and companies levying daily fines on employees for not attending work, even when the laborers had not been paid for months. It also found sponsors using their powers to prevent expats from leaving Qatar by confiscating their passports and withholding an exit permits in an effort to extract additional labor.

Additionally, Amnesty researchers found workers who had signed a contract in their home country, only to arrive in Qatar and be assigned to a different, lower-paying job – something the human rights organization asserted amounts to human trafficking.

The vote

While Thailand was the only country to actually vote against the treaty, Qatar – along with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and a handful of other nations – abstained.

Ratifying members pledged to develop a plan to fight forced labor in consultation with employers’ and workers’ organizations.

It also called on signatories to:

  • Educate vulnerable individuals to help them avoid becoming victims;
  • Educate employers so they do not become involved in forced labor practices;
  • Ensure labor laws related to forced labor apply to all workers in all sectors of the economy;
  • Strengthen labor inspection processes;
  • Protect migrant workers from abuse during the recruitment process; and
  • Address “the root causes and factors that heighten the risks of forced or compulsory labor.”

If Qatar had signed the document, some of the tenets would have compelled the country to significantly revise its laws. For example, one of the most common forms of “workers’ organizations” – unions – are effectively banned in this country.

Additionally, domestic workers are currently not covered by Qatar’s labor laws. And the country’s labor inspectors, which numbered slightly more than 150 last year, are forced to conduct multiple investigations a day and are hampered by language barriers, according to Amnesty.

The country said it wants to increase the number of inspectors to 300.

The decision to not sign the charter comes weeks Qatar found itself offside at the United Nations, where some three dozen states criticized the Gulf state, during a human rights review.

Meanwhile, a UN human rights expert who called on Qatar to abolish its kafala sponsorship system and allow workers to freely change employers has published a full report about his findings.

For its part, government authorities have proposed changes to make it easier for expats to leave the country and change jobs, but officials stopped short of nixing a system of exit visas and no-objection certificates for its foreign workforce.

The pledged changes come as international scrutiny on Qatar intensifies because it is hosting the 2022 World Cup. However, officials here said they are making the changes to adhere to the 2030 vision, and not due to outside pressure.

No reforms have been implemented yet, but earlier this month, Qatar’s foreign minister said changes are coming “soon.”

Thoughts?

40 COMMENTS

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Farhan Khurshid
6 years ago

Anyone still having his/her fingers crossed or holding breath?

Ano
Ano
6 years ago

actually I am … waiting for FIFA to strip them off from the hosting rights….

Myrddin
Myrddin
6 years ago
Reply to  Ano

Just the opposite. I want Qatar to keep the rights. Then we can slowly torture FIFA, and Septic, particularly Septic, to death!

Figuratively…of course!

Ano
Ano
6 years ago
Reply to  Myrddin

boy… do you have any idea how much FIFA’s image will be tarnished if Qatar keeps the rights… surely I will stop associating as a customer for VISA, HYUNDAI, SONY,..ETC

Myrddin
Myrddin
6 years ago
Reply to  Ano

Precisely!!

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Why would Qatar or the other Gulf Countries have to sign? These are only allegations, nothing can be proven and they conducted the bid, ahem sorry, have worker standards of the highest ethical nature. In fact most workers are treated just like family and if any thing we are too kind.

Susan
Susan
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

What Qatar says it will do (on paper, in its laws), and what actually happens are two vastly different things. While I will agree that many people that I know (Qatari and non-Qatari alike) treat their household staff here very well, I think that many more are ill-treated and very poorly compensated. The vast majority of business and companies who employ significant numbers of migrant laborers seem to neither protect their staff nor treat them well. Just look around as you head home today and notice how many workers are still out in the 50+ degree heat working, or being transported around in non-AC buses on a regular basis, or are stuffed 6-10 to a room in some hovel of a place that is like an overcrowded kennel for humans.
It’s inhumane, sad and unbecoming of a country with so much more potential and ability.

Jen
Jen
6 years ago
Reply to  Susan

I think MIMH was talking tongue in cheek?

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Yep you are right and of course that is the standard defence of any critiscm or percieved critcsm.

We uphold the highest ethical standards and the rights of individuals are enshirned in law, to say anything else is racist, anti-arab or islamophobic or all three at the same time and adding just plain mean.

Jen
Jen
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Doha news–why is my comment of –‘I think MIMH was talking tongue in cheek’—gone over to awaiting moderation? Tongue in cheek is an expression meaning–being ironic–and is in no way offensive and was an explanation.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Doha News is obviously coming under a lot of pressure to be like the printed newspapers here and to only post happy stories about Qatar and to quash any dissent.

Chris
Chris
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Be careful – they will say you are being racist, along with anyone who has anything at all to say about this!

truth.e.ness
truth.e.ness
6 years ago

Loosely translated: “We Qataris value the growth of our infrastructure (by others) more than human life and human freedoms, therefore we will continue to prey upon impoverished nations.”

DavidAdora
DavidAdora
6 years ago
Reply to  truth.e.ness

Anybody watched Snowpiercer? Ok life is not a movie, but the only way through this mess is if somebody builds up the spine to do something. I don’t have a spine – maybe because I haven’t suffered enough or maybe because I’m selfish and still have something to lose if I take a stand.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  truth.e.ness

“We Qataris” really? Good to know 35 people have generalised an entire population. Don’t paint us all with the same brush.

Ano
Ano
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

really? do you want his comments to be deleted/blocked for that? Qatar’s policies towards immigrants amounts to endorsing Modern day slavery….You guys are still in 17th century on many fronts…….

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  Ano

Did I say I wanted his comments to be deleted or blocked? Perhaps you should reread my comment. I was protesting his/her generalization of the entire population, not his criticism of policies.

Myrddin
Myrddin
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Why not generalize the Qatari population? After all, the generalized view of the population is precisely the justification employed by the authorities for not making any meaningful changes to the labour laws.

Polls referenced in DN have indicated an overwhelming resistance to change from the Qatari population. You might not like the generalization, but I’m afraid it does appear have merit?

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  Myrddin

I don’t agree with any type of generalization. As I aid previously in my post regarding this article, I am opposed to the abstention by my government. I believe policies should be introduced to tackle this problem regardless of whether the majority of people like it or not. As you said ” majority” of people are opposed to, for example, abolishing the kafala, which doesn’t mean all of them. Have you listened to all of the opinions expressed by Qataris? Do you realize there’s a difference between the opinions of the youth and the older generations? Generalizations are wrong, and if anything divide opinion. I’m assuming you’re an expat, I’m a Qatari, we both agree that there’s a problem with labour rights, so let’s state the facts and not escalate anything. There’s a problem, I’m not saying there isn’t, with public opinion, but let’s realize that not everyone agrees with the status quo. Hence “we Qataris” is the wrong statement to make.

Ano
Ano
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Do you wanted another justification other than 90% of qatar’s support strengthening kafala system? isn’t that a a reason to generalize ???

Mr. B
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

What you take issue with is the stereotyping rather than the point that Qatar trades the lives of foreigners in order to ensure its own citizens don’t have to do particular jobs.

I’m pretty sure one is worse than the other.

Inti
Inti
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Yes, that is the problem with these things. Leads to unfair characterizations. It’s not as if the average Qatari on the street was polled.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

You have to change mentalities first. As long as most Qataris are satisfied with the current labor laws including the sponsorship system, there is no point changing the laws. Either they will ignore the laws or you will end up alienating your people which is the last thing any government wants.

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Easier said than done, sometimes you need to change the law so that people are forced to abide by a new system if there is no successful method of convincing them that this change is good. But I take your point, it’s a tricky situation to be in. Very easy to say go ahead and change Qatar when you’re looking from the outside in

Huzz
Huzz
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

We agree on this one. Not upsetting the people is even more important in these countries where there is always someone with the same family name waiting in the wings to take over.

Paul
Paul
6 years ago

Qatar “exploits” labour in its own country, others “exploit” outside of their borders (furniture companies, sports brands, phone manufacturers, ..etc)

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago
Reply to  Paul

I agree to a degree. However it isn’t the US government, for instance, exploiting Chinese workers who manufacture iPhones. It’s Apple Corporation, with the tacit consent of global consumers.

Michael L
Michael L
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

Very fair point and all of us who work and live here give the same tacit consent to what goes on in Qatar. Uncomfortable but true.

Paul Antypas
Paul Antypas
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael L

Correct, we also accept to work here… Sometimes maybe a necessary choise, but still.. and if we wouldn’t accept, rules would change

Paul
Paul
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael L

We all choose to work here.. If nobody would accept, then only rules would have to change.

Paul Antypas
Paul Antypas
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

Well it’s all to easy to blame the chinese goverment; they didn’t chose china for it’s natural springs when they establish a manufacturing plant.. it’s to benifit from the situation

Paul
Paul
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

When a company goes to China, to open its manufacturing plant, it’s not because of its natural springs; it’s to benefit from the situation.. And Apple (e.g.) is a company run under US regulation, so as a government it’s all to easy to waive responsibility..

truth.e.ness
truth.e.ness
6 years ago
Reply to  Paul

Here’s the difference I see regarding labor in-country. When established countries were built by immigrant workers in the past, the idea and the promise was that if you come and work, you will own a piece of the growth and you can be a part of the country moving forward. You and your family could get a piece of the pie, reap benefits and become a resident/citizen.

Here in Qatar, the idea is that you come here for a much worse existence but higher pay than your home country, get treated like a slave, have no rights, then get shipped home after being taken advantage of and abused. You get nothing in the long run for helping build a nation full of entitled people not willing to work alongside you.

Paul Antypas
Paul Antypas
6 years ago
Reply to  truth.e.ness

In most other countries you pay taxes so naturally you except something in return. Here though, no (direct) taxes on income. I’m not saying it’s all ok what’s happening, but it’s not an isolated case either.

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

Well that’s pretty expected, it would be premature for Qatar to sign before they’ve figured out what changes they are initially comfortable with. Assuming a change is desired, whether by the government due to pressure or by the public at large, it will at best be gradual, even if only to judge the impact step at a time

fullmoon07
fullmoon07
6 years ago

abstained, which in this case is a slap in the face of the poor ones. Shame! But what I expect nothing from these countries….honestly….I find this is their idea of culture they give to foreigners

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago

Is anyone actually surprised by this? Qatar is, after all, one of the last countries to outlaw slavery of its own people.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

Not surprised, but definitely disappointed. As a Qatari, it’s extremely disappointing that we abstained from such a vote. I understand that attitudes take a long time to change, but I feel they can change, with education and with enforcement of the law, regardless of whether the people agree or not.

Guest
Guest
6 years ago

Strip them from FIFA hosting rights…..

HalfManArmy
HalfManArmy
6 years ago

I would like it very much if Qatar continued doing this until we’re caught up with the rest of the world, infrastructure-wise. The Americans had slaves, slaves built the pyramids.

I’d just like to catch up, then we’ll take another look at it. Imperialists.

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