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Saturday, May 15, 2021

US downgrades Qatar for insufficient efforts to tackle human trafficking

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The US State Department has added Qatar to a watch list for the Gulf country’s failure to increase its efforts to combat human trafficking.

Qatar now joins Bahrain on the ‘tier-two watch list,’ the third-worst position among the report’s four country classifications.

By comparison, Oman and the UAE both fall into the tier-two category, where Qatar ranked last year, while Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are both among the 23 worst nations in the report’s lowest tier.

The US says its annual Trafficking in Persons Report is its primary tool for engaging foreign governments to combat trafficking.

It’s also used by non-governmental organizations as well as foreign states as a guide to help them focus their resources.

The downgrade to the ‘tier-two watch list’ is unlikely to have any immediate impact on Qatar.

By contrast, tier-three countries are subject to US sanctions – specifically withholding financial aid, unless American officials deem that it’s in their national interest to continue providing monetary support.

Qatar falls outside that classification, is extremely wealthy and plays an important military role as host of the largest US air base in the Middle East.

The downgrade is, however, another public indictment of Qatar’s human rights record, specifically how the country’s kafala, or sponsorship, system leaves migrant workers vulnerable to abuse by unscrupulous employers of all nationalities.

The US report states:

“Many migrant workers arriving in Qatar have paid exorbitant fees to recruiters in their home countries, and some recruitment agencies in labor-sending countries have lured foreign workers with false employment contracts.

Qatar’s sponsorship system places a significant amount of power in the hands of employers and, therefore, debt-laden migrants who face abuse, or who have been misled, often avoid legal action because of fear of reprisal, the lengthy recourse process, or lack of knowledge of their legal rights, ultimately ensnaring them into forced labor, including debt bondage.

Moreover, under the restrictive sponsorship system, employers have the unilateral power to cancel residency permits, deny workers the ability to change employers, and deny them permission to leave the country.”

The same issue was raised earlier this month at the United Nations Human Rights Council and was also a main theme of a comprehensive report on the construction sector by Amnesty International last fall.

Behind the rankings

Qatar was not the only country to be downgraded in the report.

A total of 17 nations moved into a lower category, including 13 states such as Cyprus, Jamaica and Pakistan that joined Qatar in being added to the tier-two watch list.

Some 13 countries, meanwhile, were deemed by US officials to have improved their performance and moved up the list.

In explaining Qatar’s downgrade, the report’s authors said the country does not comply with the minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking.

While making “significant efforts” to do so, the report says the Qatar government failed to demonstrate it is increasing its efforts to address the issue.

It covers activities between April 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, which means that it did not take note of Qatar’s plans to reform its kafala system announced in May.

One of the leading drivers of forced labor in Qatar, the report states, is delayed or non-payment of wages.

The government has discussed tackling this by mandating companies to pay employees electronically so authorities can track and punish offending employers. However, like the proposed kafala reforms, no firm timeline for such a regulation has been announced.

In theory, the proposed changes to the country’s labor laws announced in May will address several other key concerns raised in the report, by making it harder for sponsors to deny employees exit permits, by setting minimum living standards and by raising fines for confiscating passports.

However, as the US report notes, withholding passports is already illegal in Qatar, but the law is not rigorously enforced.

Solutions

The report also suggests that perceptions among Qatar’s officials is part of the problem:

“Some government officials downplayed that human trafficking exists in Qatar, drawing a distinction between labor exploitation and human trafficking…” it states.

“The government frequently treated disputes between workers and employers as administrative issues and made minimal efforts to identify victims of forced labor among these cases. Some Qatari officials failed to recognize that severe labor abuses could amount to human trafficking…The government’s primary solution for resolving labor violations was to transfer a worker’s sponsorship to a new employer with minimal effort to investigate whether the violations may have amounted to forced labor.”

Along with abolishing or significantly overhauling the country’s sponsorship laws, the report’s authors call for:

  • Increased efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses;
  • Fines for employers who withhold workers’ wages or passports;
  • The enforcement of the law requiring that employees receive residence cards within one week of arrival;
  • Proactively identifying victims of all forms of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as those arrested for immigration violations or prostitution, and providing victims with adequate protection services; and
  • Collecting, analysis and distribution of anti-trafficking law enforcement data.

At the same time, the report highlighted Qatar’s “sufficiently stringent” penalties for human trafficking crimes, training for police officers, prosecutors and judges, as well as a shelter for women and children run by Qatar Foundation to Combat Human Trafficking.

The facility assisted 1,701 individuals in 2013 with legal assistance, financial compensation and medical aid.

Thoughts?

34 COMMENTS

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Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago

US State Dept is racist.

dohadude
dohadude
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

well that was fast!

Saffa
Saffa
6 years ago
Reply to  dohadude

O.O must be clicking refresh constantly 😉

And in response, obviously, they must be to have made such an egregious decision

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Saffa

just in the right place at the right time, I’m a lucky kinda guy 🙂

Mili
Mili
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

Nothing better to do?

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Mili

No. Not at that moment.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

It must be, as well as islamophobic, anti arab and anti employers.

٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶
٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I’ve heard they are not fond of small animals either, kittens and puppies are apparently amongst the worst treated.

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
6 years ago

And orphaned baby dolphins. Apparently they have no rights at all in the US. Not even allowed to apply for a green card.

sicti
sicti
6 years ago
Reply to  Desert Witch

How about protecting the whales? :))

Doc
Doc
6 years ago
Reply to  sicti

They freed Willy.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago

Haha love that guy…Just fooling around for a change…we cant be serious all the time can we…it gets tiring.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Qatar will not care as it does not need the USA’s money but it does need its military to protect its vast wealth. A bit of a dilema.
However I find it sad that the US has to produce such reports, this should be the mandate of the UN to name and shame countries that are involved in human trafficking and exploitation.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

There are various other reports done on this – each with it’s own methodology. This one just seems to get the most press..

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

They’re all pretty similar though.

InconnufeeDoha
InconnufeeDoha
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Of course the UN also produces such reports. https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/global-report-on-trafficking-in-persons.html

State Dept has Congressional mandate to write such reports on all countries where US has trade, aid or military exchange.

MrJames
MrJames
6 years ago

Does anyone really care what the US thinks? Former superpower in terminal financial and moral decline. No-one gives a toss.

Myrddin
Myrddin
6 years ago
Reply to  MrJames

Why not?

Anything to give us a break from WC2022!

Huzz
Huzz
6 years ago
Reply to  MrJames

Iain, as long as the Qatari trade oil and gas in USD then they do.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  Huzz

they want us to trade is USD just as much as we wana sell in USD. the issue from the qatari side with this would be damage to reputation not economic

Huzz
Huzz
6 years ago

Hi Mohammed, I understand your point but I was not really referring to the actual sales of oil or gas to the USA. My point was that as long as Qatar sells its gas/oil in USD then they have to be concerned with how they are classed by the Americans. Every time a sale of anything is done in USD (or any currency) the proceeds of the sale must go through a correspondent bank in the country of that currency. In this case that currency is USD. Therefore if you sell gas to Germany for example, the Germans will have to pay you in USD as that is the industry standard. To do this they will have to instruct the paying bank (lets say Deutsche Bank for this case) to pay Qatar’s US correspondent bank in the USA – (lets say Bank of New York Mellon). So Deutsche instructs its US correspondent bank (JP Morgan Chase) to pay XXX USD to Bank of NY Mellon who then credits the funds to Qatar’s account. As you can see there are many organisations involved and as they are all dealing in USD then the US gov can put pressure / restrictions or fines on any or all of these organisations that in turn make it difficult for you to sell your gas in the long term. ….Before you say it, it is not simple just to operate in a different currency. There are a lot of factors to consider although I know that it is being considered by a number of countries. All banks I have referred to above are only examples and are not the correspondent banks of one another. It was just for explanation.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  MrJames

If even you don’t care what the US thinks, you cannot ignore them. As for terminal financial and moral decline that is a nice statement but meaningless. Who decides on morals? You? As for financial they still out perform everyone else and maybe their part of the world economic pie is shrinking, but it is still most of the pie.

MrJames
MrJames
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I think you CAN ignore them, MIMH. I certainly do. Honestly, on a daily basis I regularly make decisions not to trade with or interact with the US, it’s citizens or US companies.

I think we all know that the US itself is one of the worlds greatest abusers of human rights. It’s the duty of US citizens to elect a government that respects human rights worldwide, not just it’s own citizens. And until they do, individuals like myself will continue to impose our own personal sanctions against the US.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago
Reply to  MrJames

Far from it Iain, people do care. Qatar cares I am sure, yet still it happens. The US may not have the wealth that others do, but it still has a moral obligation to act as policeman, watchdog, addressing issues such as human trafficking , slavery , forced labour, etc. I don’t see anyone else standing up for those who suffer. I oppose many aspects of US foreign policy, they are not saints, but am impressed with their stance , and commitment to try to do the right thing.

dohadude
dohadude
6 years ago
Reply to  MrJames

People do care – look what the US has done to isolate Iran over the nuclear issue. Qatar has benefited much by having US bases here (and asked for and are getting more) to keep Iran in check. The US issued an order and VISA cut credit card access in Russia over the invasion of Crimea. American Presbyterians are divesting from companies over Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. The Philippines invited the US back to a base in the South Islands to help them against China, who unilaterally declared ownership over sea and land owned by Vietnam, Japan, Philippines, etc. violating 1982 UN agreements, and the list goes on. Who else is being asked and is willing to stand up? By your comment I assume you approve of ISIS as they meet your definition of the richest terrorists (just stole billions from Iraq banks) and are ordering women to stay in their homes and not venture out (a moral decline in my opinion but depends on your definition of ‘moral’).

Rienz
Rienz
6 years ago

Very amusing … USA has around 20 million illegal immigrants (brought in with the help of insiders i.e. Human Trafficking) and the total debt of USA as of today morning is $17,540,088,313,447 – i.e. every US citizen’s share of that debt is $55,075 …yet the “great” US of A goes around downgrading/upgrading everyone on the planet. Kinda like a beggar with very low integrity, judging everyone else … most amusing.
If anyone is interested in the updated US debt stats, check http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Rienz

I don’t know many beggars who can project military force anywhere on the planet or who can shut a country out of the global financial system at will.

Yes the US has a lot of debt but it is manly held by foreign countries. If you owe the bank 10,000 dollars that is your problem, if you owe the bank a trillion dollars it is their problem….

Rienz
Rienz
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Maybe you are not aware, beggars do have a very powerful network … try messing around with beggars in any of the cities in India and many other such countries … it is a very big organized business, the kingpins drive some of the fanciesst cars on the planet (perhaps an online search will help you understand their modus operandi) … does not matter if the beggar is from a small town, bullying others or a big nation bullying every country, a beggar shall remain a beggar. Coming back to the point of Human Trafficking, USA has a much larger problem that they have failed to control … so down grading other nations for the same reason is as I already mentioned “beggar with low integrity, judging everyone else”!

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Rienz

I’ll take the US drones over India’s beggars any day.
It seems you are a very bitter person, did they turn down your green card?

Rienz
Rienz
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Resorting to personal attacks, how desperate … fyi I do not need green card from a beggar country.

Aaron Smith
Aaron Smith
6 years ago
Reply to  Rienz

I have four arguments against your reasoning. The first is that I don’t think the US Government sanctions the trafficking of people into the country to build soccer stadiums, parent children and build infrastructure. Another argument is that law-abiding Americans (the ones that matter) do not want those 20 million illegal immigrants in the country. They are accused of “stealing” jobs that otherwise businesses would have to pay actual citizens a taxable salary. My third argument is that the illegals in America go through excruciating processes to NOT get caught and sent home – opposite of here – where they fake family deaths to try and get sympathy from employers to give them their Passport’s to fly home. The final argument I have is, that you are actually upset that Qatar got a slap on the wrist (in writing) for being a quasi-slave state?

I am very familiar with slavery. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_United_States as my great-grandfather and his father still had (job title) “cotton-pickers” living in their farm barn illegally in the early 1900’s. I am not proud of my ancestors at all, and believe me they did far worse than residents of this country are guilty of. Those workers never got a whiff of an exit visa to return to Africa. So I don’t think it is such a bad thing that Qatar gets put in the spotlight by being publicly put on a list, especially if it helps those workers who are in need of more rights.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago

Ohh no, I read now some people have gone and got serious on us all….sigh…Can’t have one story with a lets not seriously comment on this one attitude?

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

Another Doha News lecture on the effect of the Kafala, purely for internal consumption to give the impression that the problem is at the top of the Qatari agenda. It isn’t, because the Qatari can successfully rely on the fact that the wider world neither understands the Kafala nor it’s effect, and because any potential political pressure from outside Qatar is subjugated to the far more important military and trading considerations.

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