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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Report: Nepal appeals for expats in Qatar to be allowed to return home

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Worker
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Updated on June 1 with new comments from Nepal’s labor minister

Nepal’s Labor Minister has said the country’s embassy in Qatar has been “inundated” with requests for help from expats who wanted to return home after the earthquake last month, but were denied exit by their employers, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.

In what appears to be an unusually candid series of remarks from a Nepali government official, minister Tek Bahadur Gurung is also quoted as saying that he has appealed, without success so far, to FIFA and sponsors of the World Cup to intervene in the situation.

After the earthquake on April 25, which killed more than 8,000, many of the 400,000-strong Nepali community in Qatar were desperate to make contact with loved ones back home, travel back to attend funerals or help their surviving relatives.

Nepal earthquake
Nepal earthquake

Under Qatar’s sponsorship system, an employee must receive formal permission from their sponsor to obtain an exit permit before they can leave the country.

The government in Kathmandu asked that Nepalis in Qatar be given special dispensation by their employers to travel during the time of crisis.

Amid rumors that some expats were being denied permission to leave Qatar by their sponsors, Qatar’s World Cup organizers said last week that its staff raised funds for the 500 Nepali workers deployed on World Cup related projects.

It added that it had helped dozens of expats travel back to Nepal:

“Every request by Nepali workers on (Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy) projects to return home in the aftermath of the earthquakes has been approved, with more than 60 workers having their airfare covered by the relevant contractor,” it said in a statement on May 21.

However, Gurung’s comments in The Guardian contradict this statement. He said that while some workers had been allowed to return home, “those on World Cup construction sites are not being allowed to leave because of the pressure to complete projects on time.”

He went on:

“There are far more than 500 Nepalese working on different World Cup construction sites, I can assure you. We have even offered to pay the air fare home for all our people building stadiums and involved in other projects, where companies are not willing, but not even this has made a difference. Our embassy in Doha has been inundated with requests for help from World Cup workers who are not allowed to leave.”

The Nepal Embassy in Doha could not be reached for confirmation on the number of workers who had been prevented from leaving Qatar.

A week after those comments were published, Gurung’s ministry backtracked, saying:

“The content of the news report does not reflect the spirit of the Minister of State, who had just appealed, in a good faith, all employers of Qatar to facilitate the return of the Nepali workers to join their family members in the country who have been victims of the recent earthquake . We have the report that the employers of Qatar have responded very positively to this matter and Nepali workers are being facilitated by their employers to return to Nepal.”

Pressure

Gurung said Nepal’s government had been attempting, without success, to contact FIFA and its sponsors to ask them to put pressure on Qatar.

“Nothing will change for migrant workers until FIFA and its rich sponsors insist on it,” he was quoted as saying. “These are the people who are bringing the World Cup to Qatar. But we are a small, poor country and these powerful organizations are not interested in listening to us.”

The Nepali government has been in talks with Qatar for some time about improving conditions for its workers, many of whom are laborers working on the multitude of construction and infrastructure projects to ready the state to host the World Cup in late 2022.

Early last month during a state visit to Nepal, Qatar Labor Minister Abdullah bin Saleh Al Khulaifi was urged to improve labor conditions for the country’s workforce.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

At the time, Nepali officials appealed for the introduction of better insurance policies for workers, to set up orientation sessions before Nepalis travel to Qatar and to require employers to pay the illegal commissions regularly demanded by manpower agencies.

Al Khulaifi reiterated that changes to the kafala sponsorship system were in the works, adding: “We need more migrant workers to build the 2022 World Cup infrastructures. But, we do not want to compromise on their health and safety.”

Reform promises

Last May, Qatar authorities pledged to make changes to its sponsorship (kafala) system, making it easier for an expat to leave the country and change jobs.

However, the promised reforms stopped short of getting rid of the controversial exit permit system and requirement for an employee to secure a no-objection certificate from their employer if they want to change jobs.

In over a year since the public statement, there is still no definitive timeline for when the changes will be brought in, although Al Kulaifi was quoted earlier this month as saying he was “hopeful” that reforms would be implemented before December this year.

An Amnesty International report published last week criticized Qatar for its failure to make progress on its promises, and some human rights groups called for World Cup sponsors to pressurize FIFA and Qatar to implement the changes quickly.

Fake Coca Cola advert
Fake Coca Cola advert

Meanwhile, in an apparent effort to shame some sponsors, activists have created a fake advertisement for Coca-Cola featuring the tag line, “Proudly supporting the human rights abuses of World Cup 2022.” It quickly went viral after appearing on Reddit.

While other sponsors such as Visa have said they are “troubled” by reports of the human rights situation in Qatar, Coca-Cola has not publicly criticized Qatar or FIFA:

“The Coca-Cola Company does not condone human rights abuses anywhere in the world. We know FIFA is working with Qatari authorities to address questions regarding specific labor and human rights issues. We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress.

“We welcome constructive dialogue on human rights issues, and we will continue to work with many individuals, human rights organizations, sports groups, government officials and others to develop solutions and foster greater respect for human rights in sports and elsewhere,” it said in a statement.

Thoughts?

43 COMMENTS

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Bloodymer Zkizzoid
Bloodymer Zkizzoid
6 years ago

Let them mourn their love ones.

Guest
Guest
6 years ago

Enough is enough. Time to move this somewhere else. No more lies.

Ali Elali
Ali Elali
6 years ago

If your under the supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy sponsorship the your allowed to go back with some funds raised ( because Fifa said so ) , but god forbid if your under another sponsor not committed with the committee or Fifa regulations !!!

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago

Time to start posting the names and photos of these slave-owners…I mean sponsors on the internet.

Indifferent
Indifferent
6 years ago

The Guardian’s article is so overly dramatic and only trying to reel in as much emotional clicks and views as possible. Not trying to defend any hearltess employers here just stating the facts. But why would anyone purposely deny Nepalis to return home in these times, honestly. It doesn’t make sense.

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago
Reply to  Indifferent

My workplace – the lovely Egyptian gentleman who controls the magic exit permit computer decided that it would be ‘too inconvenient’. The Qatari owners are too disengaged to have any idea what is being done in their names.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Indifferent

I don’t think it is dramatic that your home land has just suffered a huge catastrophe and it is likely your relatives or someone you know is either dead, injured or lost their house. If that was your county’s and family would you consider it reasonable to be delayed for weeks waiting on approval to go home?

Whatever
Whatever
6 years ago
Reply to  Indifferent

I think one of the big worries for employers must be if they let their employees go home, for compassionate leave, that they will not return.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Whatever

That’s the problem with slaves, they might not come back if they were treated badly. The Romans had all sorts of problems with slave rebellions, Qatar is just being proactive.

Akmal farah
Akmal farah
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Proactive lol

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago
Reply to  Whatever

Its upto them, the workers whether they choose to return or not to

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago
Reply to  Whatever

That is a normal and expected cost of doing business. Reputable employers don’t have a problem retaining staff.

Promdi
Promdi
6 years ago

I guess they will only expedite reforms in kalafa if the South Asian countries will repatriate all their nationals back to their hometown. Like seriously, this kalafa system BS is the crappiest of the crap.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Even this statement is disgusting and just shows how badly they think about their ‘workers’

“Every request by Nepali workers on (Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy) projects to return home in the aftermath of the earthquakes has been approved, with more than 60 workers having their airfare covered by the relevant contractor,” it said in a statement on May 21.

You have to get approval to leave your job and return home. Sounds like you are a prisoner serving your sentence and your father has died and you want permission to attend the funeral. It’s disgusting they need approval and it’s disgusting the Supreme Committee thinks it has done them a huge favour. If the Head of the Committee’s father dies while overseas will he need permission from his employer to leave immediately for say London to see the body? I guess we all know the answer and that is the hypocrisy in the system.

BS
BS
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Another hysterical crap from you. As an employee, you have to inform your employer and request for leave. In case of family emergencies, a phone call to the concerned official should suffice. Wonder what you find so weird in it. Your company/boss does not have a sixth sense for him to know you have left for your country or that your father has expired.
PS- Slow clap for upvoting your own comment.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  BS

How many weeks since the Nepal earthquake? What do you consider a reasonable amount of time 6 months? Shows you consider them lesser human beings but the one good thing in this is the Nepal embassy think it’s disgusting as well

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago
Reply to  BS

Don’t you think this permissions for every little thing is getting a bit ridiculous considering that this people had a disaster back home and many of them don’t even know the situation their families are in back home

Anon
Anon
6 years ago
Reply to  BS

Oh dear, you’ve missed the point so spectacularly that you should hang your head in embarrassment. The point is that in progressive countries, with labour laws that have long moved beyond the medieval, in a crisis situation, you could just collect your own passport from your own house (imagine that, being in personal control of your own travel document-radical!) and get on a plane or whatever without prior approval, other than a simple courtesy call to your employer. In this specific case, there is a complication in that the typical Nepali labourer is not only indentured, but often in debt to some inhuman agent. So, the cost of the ticket at short notice will be prohibitive, but there are some companies in normal countries that would sympathise and buy the ticket outright as a kind gesture, or at least allow the employee to re-pay over time. As the employees in this case no doubt represent relatively small outgoings compared to the values of the contracts and profits being made (given no minimum wage and very low salaries), you’d hope that would be the case. However, it appears to have happened to a miniscule proportion of the Nepali workers here, given the numbers quoted. Obviously they are not all affected, but of course it’s a lot more than 60.

It’s no coincidence your username is ‘BS’.

Mr. Q (a.k.a. amnesia)
Reply to  Anon

Qatar has published multiple times that it’s illegal to have your passport taken away from you and that there’s a fine of 50k a day (or something like that).

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

That’s true but your passport is useless to you unless your employer gives you ‘permission’ to leave Qatar. The poor Nepalese are trapped here because their ‘sponsors’ value the project schedule over the lives of their families.

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

And…….? Publishing it, talking about and reminding companies of their duties are entirely different things from actually enforcing it. There’s a law against using your mobile phone while driving…is that ever enforced?

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  BS

The more I read your comment the worse it gets.

Simon
Simon
6 years ago
Reply to  BS

“a phone call to the concerned official should suffice”:

1. But so often it doesn’t – as most of us can confirm from experience,

2. Why should a human being need someone’s approval to go home?

VERY slow clap for your astonishing naiveté .

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago
Reply to  BS

What world do you live in? Employees don’t deal with ‘officials’ – they deal with private employers who have been incredible power of their lives without any screening, training, and incredibly little accountability. Good luck trying to even get the attention of an official. Clearly you missed the whole point of the article. Slow clap for comprehension skills and your contribution to the discussion.

CAF
CAF
6 years ago
Reply to  BS

So BS you would find it acceptable if you had a death in your family, let alone a death from a major disaster such as this and you had to ask your employer for permission to go back to your country and they may or may not say yes? You would want to get on that plane immediately and would not accept that your employer may say no or take their merry time to approve this leave.

As the comment below states – your name speaks for itself – no one should, or would, accept such a thing.

Waveydavey
Waveydavey
6 years ago
Reply to  BS

Bet you wish you never wrote that…

Mr. Q (a.k.a. amnesia)
Reply to  BS

I also agree with this logic. I too have to apply for leave and have it approved from my employer before leaving the country.
(although I do have the option of ignoring my employer and leaving the country, leaving them high and dry and losing my job).

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

That is a normal consequence, but if these people refused to work because they want to go home and see what is left of their home and families the police will arrest them, same as the recent case for the Sri Lankans whose accommodation burned down. Will the police arrest you for just leaving your job? Of course not and this is where the human rights of another human being is being abused.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Sorry I like the stuff you do but your wrong on this point

Pete
Pete
6 years ago

This is just sickening but honestly, none of us should be surprised. The only surprrise would be if all who wished to, were in fact allowed to go home.

KK
KK
6 years ago

Disgusting.

Mukunthan Iyer
Mukunthan Iyer
6 years ago

Ah! So much to ask! Just some weeks back, I read about charity raisers in Qatar for Nepal. How humane can a society be, which wants the publicity for philanthropy, but wouldn’t appreciate or even recognize the human values in fellow humans? Can I ever read something good about Qatar?

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

That’s sad. If this persons cannot go home or get to go home if and when they want or choose to then there must be something really wrong with the whole process out here. Let them go and if they want they will return back and if they don’t just understand that they have realized that it is not worth the trouble for a little extra money

Akmal farah
Akmal farah
6 years ago

What dazzles me most is the following:

-250,000 citizens, where at least half of which are female/kids/elderly and hence powerless
-Over 1.5 MILLION abused workers and I am tentatively using the word “workers” not the uglier term.

You would think that some risk of an unseen escalation is to be counted for and I am NOT encouraging that. But, mistreated workers griefed over family death can act VERY irrationally to the point where 125,000 people can not probably contain. Qatar, for HEAVEN’S sake start treating people like people. Islam is a BEAUTIFUL religion. Please Qatar, Please your highness. We are all the product of God.

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago
Reply to  Akmal farah

Islam’s beauty is solely in the eye of the beholder, but it is fair to ask why so many who follow it in Qatar have allow such abuses in their names.

John
John
6 years ago

What I find interesting is that there a handful of very articulate comments in the Guardian piece defending the status quo, and one even going so far to say that it is irresponsible for Nepali workers to go home as they will end up being a burden. That and the usual “companies cannot let workers go suddenly as they have a contract to work”, “if the Nepalese govt acts too harsh, Qatar can easily replace their workers with people from other places”.

Fred Upston
Fred Upston
6 years ago

Unfortunately, Qatar has no real check and balance systems as to employer and how they ‘choose’ to control the lives of their workers. There are so many human rights violations outside of the Nepalese tragedy, that need to be addressed. When I see national women and men with outlandish material goods, Hermes 20,000 u.s.d purses, cars that I am not sure of the names they are so rare, and sad looking, down trodden nannys or chauffeurs I just want to vomit. It is not only the government-it is the society that has created and benefited from the extreme Human trafficking abuses in this country. If I hear another person ask” have you been to their country of origin? There lives are much better in this pest infested, run down work camp than they would be at home.” I am going to scream.
These are human beings that we are talking about. Most have gone to heroic measures to support their family’s and communities. This support is not to build palaces it is to educate their children and feed and house their families.
Qatar needs to take control of their employers and become responsible for the workers in it’s county!

kumar
kumar
6 years ago

For each and every work, which are carried out in Qatar depends
upon the manpower, if they are really concerned about it, then they must also
take precaution to face all consciences, If a tyre, in a car gets blasted, you
need to have a spare tyre to continue your journey, instead you don’t sit on
the road waiting to repair the same tyre. It’s the same in the work too, you need
to have more manpower, but they have only limited manpower to carryout more
jobs and naming it as “cost cutting”. It means they don’t want to spend money,
but their aim is to earn more. Finally it’s the poor workers who get affected.

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

I have news for you Coca-Cola…there will be no progress. You are condemned by your weak FIFAesque statement.

DT
DT
6 years ago

How clear does it need to be? When you are used to putting up with this craziness (like living right IN it) you begin to think it is somehow “right”. It is SLAVERY. SIMPLE. SLAVERY. The world sees it – the WESTERN world sees it….why QATAR thinks it can fool the world is beyond me.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  DT

But yanni we are a developing country and these things take time. We are mulling the reforms and promise to implement them soon inshallah. We can’t also blimey adopted the corrupted western culture, we have to be true to our local culture and religion which involves 3000 years of slavery. Oops, did I say that, sorry I meant we treat everyone as our guest and value their lives above ours….

DT
DT
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

yep….*shaking head* When there is no excuse for bad behavior….it’s culture. LOL

OL
OL
6 years ago

The governments and people could not care less whether the Nepali workers, as with all the other South Asian workers, are enslaved, remain unpaid or die. The government throws money at ‘Contractors’ who hire the workers through unscrupulous ‘Agents’ in their home-countries who in turn extract a huge ‘fee’ from prospective workers for getting them a ‘lucrative’ job. The workers take loans from loan-sharks at exorbitant rates of interest to pay these ‘agents’ in the hope that they will earn more than enough, as promised by the agents, to repay the loan and save enough to buy a home and send their children to school. Once they reach here, the contractors take away their passports and use them as they please in complete contravention to what was offered to them when they were ‘recruited’ and pay them ridiculously low wages which are a fraction of what was promised. Even then, only a fraction of this sum is actually paid to the workers with the remaining being promised at the end of the contract citing reasons like ‘the government is not releasing money’ etc. The poor workers not only cannot leave because their passports have been confiscated, but choose not to because they cannot return without money enought to repay the loan and look after their family. There are a large number of suicides among the workers that go un-reported and are shown as death due to heart-attack, natural causes etc. Any workers who agitate or strike work are arrested, imprisoned and deported to their home-country where they face huge debts and impoverished families. This is the reality in the entire Gulf region.

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