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Sunday, July 25, 2021

What it’s like to be homeless in Qatar

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A man asleep at the Central Market.
A man sleeping at the Central Market.

Though Qatar has changed dramatically in the past several decades, things have remained pretty much the same for some of its residents, including Abdullah.

The 73-year-old green-robed, white-haired hamaali hails from Iran and has lived here for the past 45 years. For two-thirds of that time, he has spent his nights sleeping in the same place he works, at the Central Market’s “Kilo” bazaar.

The plight of Abdullah and many other porters and vendors at the market, who come from Iran, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, is no state secret.

But it made the headlines again last week, when Central Municipal Council members tackled the issue of homelessness in Qatar.

Abdullah, an Iranian expat who has lived in Qatar for 45 years.
Abdullah, an Iranian expat who has lived in Qatar for 45 years.

During a roundtable session, CMC members expressed surprise at the situation, after photos were circulated of fruit and vegetable stalls transformed into covered tents with blue tarp.

According to the Peninsula, members condemned the arrangement as a “violation of laws and safety rules.”

“(This is) something (un)civilised and not representative of Qatar’s development,” said Jassim Al Malki, the CMC’s deputy chairman, who has since recommended a crackdown on these makeshift homes and more rigid inspections.

But speaking to Doha News this week, many of the workers at the Central Market said they simply cannot afford proper accommodation. And their sponsors, who they pay QR1,400 once a year to continue working in the country, are of no help.

Looking the other way

Qatar’s police do not appear to be unaware of the hamaalis’ situation.

Hamaalis and vendors are provided with two forms of identification by the government – a Qatari ID, and a specific ID given by the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (Baladiya).

When police conduct their monthly raids of the premises, those with the two IDs are left alone, even if they are sleeping. Those who lack either piece of ID are arrested and imprisoned before finally being deported.

Workers at Central Market
Workers at Central Market

Speaking to Doha News, several hamaalis said that the Central Market is also often a hideout for workers who, having spent thousands of riyals to secure a job in the Middle East, find themselves duped and living in squalor.

Unable to leave the country, they quit their jobs and sponsors and moonlight as porters during the day.

“We don’t mind that. They have to earn somehow,” Abdullah said. He added that most of these workers spend their nights at a nearby park, ready to temporarily relocate in case the police show up.

Typical day

Most vendors spend long hours working at the market, in shifts that often last more than 12 hours. The hamaalis who have made their home there wake up at the crack of dawn to pray at a nearby mosque before starting work.

During the day, Abdullah said he sits on a bench under a large tree at the market’s main entrance, waiting to help customers unload their purchases.

“Sometimes, a lot of people come. Mostly on Fridays. At other times, no one comes. We have no salaries. We make QR5 to 15 whenever we help a customer move (produce) from the market to his car, but that depends on how much they want to give us,” he added.

Haamalis at Central Market
Haamalis at Central Market

When night falls, the bench doubles as a makeshift bed for him and the seven other hamaalis that work at the Kilo Market. Sometimes, the men, whose ages range from 45 years old to over 80, sleep on their delivery trolleys, or on an enclosed concrete ledge at the market’s entrance.

“What can we do?” said Jahangir, 45, another hamaali who hails from the same region. “We make several hundred riyals a month and can’t afford rents in most places, so we make do here.”

Jahangir said his father usually takes the concrete ledge inside the market, a prime position given to him to shield him from the outside weather, and to help preserve his frail health.

But right now, he is in the hospital, suffering from what seems to be a mixture of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses.

Other low-income expats also choose to spend their nights at the market.

One, an Indian worker who was asleep under a table in his stall, told Doha News that the choice was born of necessity.

“My room is very far, in Sanaya. Sometimes I stay here. At other times, I leave but come back again at 4am and then sleep here until 8.”

In another corner, an ex-hamaali, crippled by a falling door at the market several years ago, lay asleep on a thin dirt-stained rug on the floor, hidden by the covered produce of his stall.

By his head sat boxes holding a few clothes and caps. A small rotating fan provided the only ventilation, while overhead, a few delicacies – nutella, salt, garlic – lay hidden from public view.

Dangers

Without proper shelter, many workers at the market said they are vulnerable to theft, as well as the elements.

According to Jahangir, unknown assailants mugged his 80-year-old father about two months ago.

“They came at around 2am; one held his mouth closed. The other held his legs. They took QR200 from him. That was all the money he had made.

When we go to the police, they can’t do anything. He was old, he couldn’t scream, so no one saw the robbers. There’s no evidence. There’s no cameras here. There was nothing we could do,” he said.

Another problem faced by the porters is the theft of produce from the Central Market stalls. But they said that repercussions for missing food have been few and far between.

Source of livelihood
Source of livelihood and a makeshift bed

Unless action is taken, the hamaalis said they plan to continue scratching out a living here to send money home to support their families, who are largely unaware of their suffering.

“They have no idea what it’s like here. And even if they did, what could they do? We are weak here. They need the money, and we need to provide it,” said Jahangir, whose five children – four boys and one girl – are back home in Balochistan.

Thoughts?

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Shabzed
Shabzed
6 years ago

Affordable housing & business space is an issue CMC should discuss and find a solution. Its high time this issue is still remaining unsolved.

Ms. Hala
6 years ago

I can’t even imagine… Simple solutions are available to end homelessness, both in Qatar and everywhere else in the world, it’s just a matter of effort and enforcement.

Not Drinking The Cool-Aid
Not Drinking The Cool-Aid
6 years ago

haram, this situation is heart breaking. I hope qatar charity or someone eases things for these people. Its not addressing the root cause but it will certainly help them.

Andrew
Andrew
6 years ago

I’d love to know why charities turn a blind eye to this, but boast about helping debtors who borrowed money they can’t repay. What did these people spend their 2,000,000Qar on?

http://thepeninsulaqatar.com/news/qatar/289874/raf-comes-to-debtors-rescue

Coco
Coco
6 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

For some a welfare state and for others a farewell state.

Luis Henrique Rolim
6 years ago

Where it goes all the money in that charity stand of the malls? Out of the country? Seems there are also internal issues to be supported…

Dobbin_the_Wonder_Horse
Dobbin_the_Wonder_Horse
6 years ago

Rational people usually choose the best of the options available to them. All of these people appear to have the option to return home albeit through deportation. So their current situation must be better than the one that awaits them at home.

Smarty Salwars
Smarty Salwars
6 years ago

Yes, maybe, but that doesn’t justify their low wages. I cannot employ a Saudi woman, give her a car, allow her to stay without a mahram, and then pay her half of what her non-Saudi colleagues get even if it means her life is better than that in Saudi Arabia.

Bottom line is human rights are not relative.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Smarty Salwars

Agree this is why the Saudi women should never accept the force of economics and insist on a higher wage… If she sells her labor low wage she’ll get a low wage .. Demand a higher wage and if she worth a higher wage then that’s what shell get paid

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  Smarty Salwars

There is no wages. The porters are freelancers. They rely on customers who want their stuff taken to their car for a small tip.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

I’m sorry, as much as I do believe homeliness is an issue, I fail to connect with this story. I too know many Iranians who work as tea boys, drivers, mandoobs, farmers and any other low pay kow skill job.

Most of them return to Iran once a year for 2 or 3 month and spend the rest of the year working in Doha. They literally save every last dime they can save and head to Bank Melat of Iran at Grand Hamad road and transfer all their income back home.

There living situation in much better than that of an Nepali worker in Doha. They literally can pack and go back to Iran but they stay and choose instead to support their direct and extended families with the money they save in Doha…

Their homeliness is not of lack of opportunity but of choice …

Gareth Walters
Gareth Walters
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

What a shameful and ignorant response to what is clearly a devastating situation for these poor men. Are you seriously suggesting that if these guys had anything better to go to that they would chose to live like that? If as you claim, you have your finger firmly on the pulse of the Iranian community perhaps you should go down to Kilto and speak to these guys… maybe bring some food with you. I feel ashamed for you having read this spiteful comment.

Kris Amores-Hudson
Kris Amores-Hudson
6 years ago
Reply to  Gareth Walters

I completely agree with you…while I know we’re all entitled to our opinions we also have a human responsibility to be decent and open to what others are living in any given moment.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Gareth Walters

What in my message do you think is shameful or spiteful? I’m not denying they are poor but no one can deny that they do not have homes and families waiting for them back in Iran. They can leave tomorrow if they wanted to and find a better living situation and opportunities either back in Iran or elsewhere. I would feel bad if they were drug addicts abendad by their families, people in debt forced out of their home, or even a napali runaway who may face jail time cause his sponsor is a pr!ck… But these guys are none of the above… They have an unofficial “free visa” which means they can pretty much do whatever job their skillful in to make a living… Many Iranians work in well paying jobs in large combines because they have a skill of value.. But once a person reaches a certain age and his best job only offers him an outdoor bed.. Then moving back home to ones family is the best choice

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

What if moving back results in no income at all for the family? Surely this miserable life they lead in Doha is the sacrifice they must make so that their families can eat. It I so sad that the countries that have the greatest income from natural resources in the world are the ones that have the most unequal and least fair of societies.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

You mean like the US?

disillusioned
disillusioned
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

The guy has lived and worked in Qatar for 45 years (possibly much longer than you have, mind) and you still want to treat him like a disposable robot to be sent to the landfill for recycling.

If that is not shameful, I don’t know what is. Maybe he should be kissing your feet for the “free visa”… Despicable.

Born Free
Born Free
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Again …. lets see you go and talk to them with a reporter…. you seem to be sure of yourself and the content of your statements … prove it.

Smarty Salwars
Smarty Salwars
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

1) I wouldn’t call a compromise a choice.

2) What can feed and clothe families in shacks/villages back home will not pay the rent here. In other words, cost of living there and here are worlds apart.

3) Are you talking about Iranians in general or Iranian Hamalis? How they manage airfare with QR 1,400 per annum is beyond me.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Smarty Salwars

The 1,400 is an annual sponsor “fee” not their pay .. They live off tips and what the charge for their daily work… Depending on weekday or weekend it can range from as low as 200 riyals to as high as 500 riyals a day

Jam
Jam
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

I think you didn’t get the idea here..Its not 200 riyals or 500 riyals a day, but 5 to 15 riyals per produce/goods they carry or move to the owner’s car. That is during Friday and sometimes no one comes. There’s no such thing as 200 to 500 riyals a day. V_V..Still, I admire these people for having the perseverance to live and earn little by working. On the other hand, the people who robbed them should be put to jail. That’s all he had,that 200riyals and yet it was taken from him.So sad…

Cerebus
Cerebus
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Exactly….they pay their “sponsor” who gives them a special visa that requires them to do exactly nothing, let alone pay them or provide a home. So the sponsor should be held responsible then, and ultimately the state and system that allows this to continue. Its beyond shameful, its state sponsored homelessness. This violates so many aspects of human decency let alone religious philosophy its appalling. Best not to defend it, there is no winning argument.

Born Free
Born Free
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Go and and speak to them and take a Doha news reporter with you so you can show the rest of us how right you are. But you are not right are you?

Truth
Truth
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

That is a very sad comment and to be honest I am not quite clear of your point. We come from a very rich country and with such a small population we should be able to provide those with little, a lot more than they have.
Why? Because it’s the right thing.
Your points about them sending money home to their families equals them having an opportunity to not be homeless just doesn’t make sense. First all expats send money back home. Indians, Nepalis, etc. of course they do because guess what…that’s where their families are since they cannot be here.
They are here obviously to keep a roof over their family back home. They are very selfless in that they would risk not having something for themselves so that those they care for will have it. This fellow has been here longer than I have been alive and your solution is to send them back home jobless cause at least he has a house…
And if this situation is better than a Nepali worker than I shutter to think what their lives are like. This is horrid. So because abysmal is better than super abysmal they should recieve no pity.
This story was not only about Iranians btw 😉 the Iranian gentleman was only the focus case, it was about all people working in the mentioned field. Maybe you just got something against Iranians lol.

Ali
Ali
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Your comment expresses hate and racism towards Iranians. How is Iranian working “any other low pay job” any different from “Nepali worker”? They both are in the same spot making same amount of money, the only difference is the Nepali (if you are referring to the laborers) is recruited by a contracting or man power company that provides accommodation and food other than the salary and the Iranian doesn’t get paid for food or house, they only make money by doing labor jobs as freelancers kind of… because there’s discrimination towards Iranians.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

I know your comments are harsh but I understand where you are coming from. The one thing the government can do is pay for a ticket home for these people, that gets them away from their living conditions here and back to their home country and as nationals of that country their government should take care of them.

Nise
Nise
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Some of them sent money to support their kids, now many years later some of them have grown up children… Can’t their kids help their fathers?

Smile
Smile
6 years ago
Reply to  Nise

…absolutely good point.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

You typify the attitude of your people, shame on you.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

And your comments across this website typifies the general racism found in every australian

Guest
Guest
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

Shabina, this is allowed? Generalizing an entire population? Someone is gonna sic the Arabic news readers on this site one day. I can’t wait.

Timeys
Timeys
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

which ”people” are you referring to exactly, oh Observant One? Grow a bigger brain please.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

You got so much heat from some of the same people who are so anti-immigrant rights back in their home countries. If only they could look in the mirror!

desertuser
desertuser
6 years ago

Congratulations Doha News. Real journalism not a copy and paste from the Peninsular.

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
6 years ago
Reply to  desertuser

Deleting for being a troll.

Sameer
Sameer
6 years ago

Oh…that’s just sad. Anything that could be done to help these labourers should be done, even if it’s by simply reporting IT

Ray
Ray
6 years ago

Faith in humanity is destroyed……

Ray
Ray
6 years ago
Reply to  Ray

I’m sick of those people saying someone should help them or people aren’t doing anything like WTF change starts with you if you start doing something others will too.

Marco
Marco
6 years ago

Unbelievable! No wait, this is Qatar. Believable!

Joud AlGhalayini
Joud AlGhalayini
6 years ago
Reply to  Marco

You’re just ungrateful if you say that. How come no one says anything about the millions of homeless people in NYC?

Smart Salwars
Smart Salwars
6 years ago

Because it’s not NYC News?

B.F. Pierce
B.F. Pierce
6 years ago

I’m sure that “millions of homeless people” is an exageration. It is also a clumsy attempt to deflect from the current subject. But, for the sake of entertainment, let’s go there ! Let’s compare the two societies.
How can the World’s greatest economy possibly compete with the economy of the country with the world’s highest per capita income?

● Is “homeless” defined the same in each of the two countries being examined?
● What is the percentage of the population (inclusive of legal and illegal persons) in each of the two societies that are homeless?
● what mechanisms are provided by each society to address the CAUSES and conditions of poverty and homelessness?
● How much of each society’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)is spent on poverty and homelessness? Is the spending equal for both citizen and expat?
● Is each society’s expenditure on poverty and homelessness differentiated between internal Social Welfare and Foreign Aid?

These are but a few of the questions which arise when comparing two great societies on such an issue as Social Justice. CAUTION: No true (one to one) comparison should be given. The conclusions MUST examine the data through each society’s cultural context.

“The True measure of Any Society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” – Ghandi

Azk
Azk
6 years ago

Sshh…we are not supposed to speak about the poverty in the West. The west is the abode of liberalism on the world. They can do no wrong. So what if millions are homeless, so what if many are killed by the cops and arent even charged. So what if the blacks in America still live like slaves in ghettoes and the govt doesnt care much about them. The west is the ultimate perfect state. It was what everyone should aim for. PS- let the trolling begin.

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
6 years ago
Reply to  Marco

Deleting this and subsequent thread because it’s irrelevant to this article and devolving the conversation.

Smarty Salwars
Smarty Salwars
6 years ago

CMC thinks homelessness is uncivilised, but what of the QR 1,400/year income?

As Orwell might have put it, civilisation is not for the proles.

yesjay
yesjay
6 years ago

If we sleep one day in that market, in the same makeshift leaving all the cosy comfort of air condition and where no flies buzzing around, I’m sure you would never want to be there again, even if someone offered you a fortune.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

This is incredibly sad. To me, what makes things worse is that some of these men are old… It hurts because it’s like seeing my grandparents in that situation. Once you get to a certain age, you should not be expected to work, you should be the one looked after. Poverty is just unfair. Great reporting

Hani
Hani
6 years ago

With IDs in their hand, these poor fellows are legal residents. So do their services in that place are of necessity. We all realize that not all people living in Qatar could make their best out of its fortune. I believe, Qatari Government could do better by providing these people with a low cost accommodation…. yes, they can.

Jam
Jam
6 years ago
Reply to  Hani

That’s a bright idea!

Justin Martin
Justin Martin
6 years ago

An important story well-told. Thank you, Ms. D’Mello.

zoeval
zoeval
6 years ago

Great reporting. It’s what newspapers are for. Maybe you could do a follow-up report to see what the surprised CMC people did to change the situation.

Joe
Joe
6 years ago

YES we need MORE EXTRA LUXURY homes, so we can closer our eyes to the truly needy ….SHAME

apai
apai
6 years ago

This film by a young advocate is also very powerful and brings awareness to these hamalis! Something definitely needs to be done to help them! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEb5HCKph3Q

Ali
Ali
6 years ago

I was heart broken when I saw homeless people in Downtown San Francisco and Hollywood areas under the fancy buildings and I thought to myself; no matter how Qatar is at least people are not homeless there. This is worse than the laborer situation.

Ashis Garg
Ashis Garg
6 years ago

I am not surprised with the News .. We all have been to Souqs . Not only these Old Hamaalis situation is almost same for construction workers and other Low cost jobs.. These People are be there for long and I cannot belive Authorities do not know b out the situation. Thanks for posting!! Please post any information about Authorities or NGO’s working in the field and how can Everyone contribute to fight against poverty!!

Catalea
Catalea
6 years ago

This is absolutely heartbreaking, I always knew they were living in bad conditions, but never thought they were homeless, and this comes from someone who was born and raised here….I guess building new luxury hotels is more of a priority than helping homeless people with an income of probably only 3 digits a month…

I don’t often go to Veg’ souk, so I am not aware of how big is the issue, but are they a lot ? Isn’t there anything we can do ? maybe help them, give them clothes, some cash…? I don’t know, but I remember in Europe, I would always do that to the homeless guy near my grocery store…
We can create a FB page, and all gather to help them..what do you guys think ?

Hamada
Hamada
6 years ago

Alright, what can we do to assist them ? we as residents and citizens, instead of throwing the ball back to the gov, I think we could do something.Suggestions?

Catalea
Catalea
6 years ago
Reply to  Hamada

that’s what I said..could we perhaps create a page on FB, where people would join, and we would agree who does what/ brings what / and then meet one day at the Souk or wherever they are, and we would just give them a bag with for instance a tshirt, some food (that they can keep).. i dont know.
Ideally, whoever is their sponsor would/should do something, and would at least get them an accommodation for all them…at least ! what do you thik Hamada ?

Hamada
Hamada
6 years ago
Reply to  Catalea

Brilliant idea, I shall visit the Souq very soon. I have no idea who is sponsoring them .

Catalea
Catalea
6 years ago
Reply to  Hamada

Could you perhaps give us an update on how it is exactly ? I watched the video that was posted previously, it gave me an idea… I’ll try to go to the souq as well this week end and see what I can do. But their sponsors should be ashamed…

Shower Lady
Shower Lady
6 years ago

Homelessness and Qatar dont go hand in hand surely? Shocking that these men find thenselves in this super rich state and homeless!!! My children have grown up here with a privileged lifestyle and were shocked to see homeless people in Europe. They thought there wasnt poverty here, until i explained about the low paid workers. As expats we close our eyes to this, which we should not. There has to be some charitable initiative to help, wether it be at government or local level. I know there is a group called Just Living, who are supplying essentials to construction workers. It cant be ignored, these people shouldnt be living in these conditions.

KK
KK
6 years ago

homelessness (or hopelessness) starts at home.

Immigrant
Immigrant
6 years ago

It’s sad . But I think they can gather 50 riyals each to rent a room close by. A room that fit to 10-12 people is better than sleeping homeless. I mean any room that has a roof. I that area they can find something. I have one doubt about the wage they receive from locals in return to their services. I just believe they gain higher than what the reporter mentioned.

Timeys
Timeys
6 years ago

I had no idea. Homeless people in Qatar? *sigh* well, at least authorities want to do something about it- that’s a start.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago

“(This is) something (un)civilised and not representative of Qatar’s development,” said Jassim Al Malki, the CMC’s deputy chairman, who has since recommended a crackdown on these makeshift homes and more rigid inspections.” Don’t you just love politicians!

mela
mela
6 years ago

Hi everyone…can someone to help me even whit one ide come good to me and i will be thanksful….my bf is from tunesia and he was go in qatar for work but he wasnt got it and he become homless and now was finish the papert to and visa to and no one help hem …i wish to help hem but i dont have money for can send hem….plz ….anyone who can have idea what i can do or what he can do just write to me ….thanks

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