Middle East

Amnesty: Qatar 'shamed' by inaction over migrant workers

Workers at a construction site in Doha on 16 November 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Qatar's migrant worker population is expected to reach two million within the next two years

Amnesty International says Qatar has done "almost nothing effective to end chronic labour exploitation" since it was chosen five years ago to host the football World Cup in 2022.

It says the abuses shame the Gulf state and football's governing body, Fifa.

An estimated 1.5 million migrants work in Qatar, many in the construction boom fuelled by Qatar's successful bid.

Qatar denies exploiting workers and says it has implemented a range of labour reforms.

Qatar's migrant worker population is expected to reach two million within the next two years, Amnesty says.

"Too little has been done to address rampant migrant labour abuse. Qatar's persistent labour reform delays are a recipe for human rights disaster," said Mustafa Qadri, Gulf migrant rights researcher for Amnesty.

Amnesty said Qatar had failed to make changes in several key areas, including giving workers the freedom to change jobs, to leave the country and the right to join unions.

A May 2015 report by Amnesty identified nine fundamental migrant labour rights issues.

In Tuesday's report, Amnesty says Qatar has seriously failed to address five of them, including:

  • Paying wages on time: A wage protection system that requires businesses to pay workers on time by direct bank deposits was signed into law in February 2015, but only came into force in November, with late payment still a widespread problem
  • Commitment to expanding the labour inspector force to 400 by the end of 2015: postponed until the end of 2016
  • Reform of the restrictive "kafala" sponsorship system central to the problems faced by migrant workers: limited changes promised in May 2014, only introduced in October 2015, and will not enter into force until the end of 2016

The kafala system currently only allows workers to leave the country or switch jobs with the approval of their employer, and this will not change after the reform comes into force.

Late payment of wages is a widespread problem that leaves migrant workers and their families back home in desperate situations, Amnesty says.

Qatar's labour ministry has declined to comment on the statement, the AFP news agency reports.

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