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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Ramadan Diary: No respite from the Kafala system in the holy month


Despite reduced hours and lighter work load for most, hard work and difficulty navigating Qatar’s sponsorship system remain for Mohsin Hussein, who shared his views with us through an interpreter as part seven of our Ramadan Diary series.

My name is Mohsin Hussein and I am 24 years old. I’ve been living in Qatar for five years, and came from Bangladesh.

In Ramadan, I remember my mom’s cooking a lot. Ilish fish and white rice is what I miss the most. She prepares it by first adding a large amount of delicious herbs and spices, then she cuts the fish and fries it. It’s one of the favorite things that I miss from home.

I can find it in one restaurant in Qatar, and sometimes I will go there for “sehri” (suhoor – the late night/early morning meal in Ramadan) but it doesn’t taste the same as back home. Sometimes I visit the tents for iftar.

Long hours

I work as a technician. During Ramadan hours, I’m supposed to work eight hours but am instead made to work 10-12 hours at least, and if I mess up the slightest thing, my employer gets very angry, reprimands me and threatens to send me back to Bangladesh.

In Ramadan, my hours are reduced, but I still have to work at least eight hours. I’ve had a very hard time dealing with life here, although life isn’t easy in Bangladesh either.

People have to sell a lot of things to get a visa for Qatar; they pretty much sell all their belongings.

We also have ID card problems. Some people I know are made to wait 8-10 months to get ID cards made, and if they get stopped by authorities in the meantime, they run the risk of being sent back to Bangladesh for being illegal. Seventy people were arrested once and my friends and I had to pay 16,000 QAR to get them free.

Visa dilemmas

There is another kind of visa being used called the Azad visa which allows you to change jobs easily, but this type also has problems. You can move from employer to employer, but when authorities stop anyone working under this category, the employee has to carry a contract in their hands. Employers, however, do not give out contracts to employees, especially if they haven’t been working for a particular employer for a lengthy time period.

Often times when you’re working for a particular employer, if you want to switch to another one, you have to pay anywhere around 10,000 to 15,000 QAR to the employer so that they’ll let you go.

Otherwise, you’ll be stuck.

Credit: Photo of Illish fish by Kirti Poddar

Editor’s notes: The “Azad” visa, or free visa, is not legal in Qatar. What it generally refers to is a Qatari who agrees to sponsor a number of workers and allows them to shift employers or do freelance work as long as they pay the a fee.

Also, a photo of the author was not used in this post – at his request – as he was afraid it could cause trouble for him in the future.

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