US EMBASSY officials are urging a liberalisation of the sponsorship law to combat forced labor and human trafficking violations within Qatar. The call comes amid increasing speculation regarding a draft law, currently awaiting approval, governing the entry and exit of foreigners, their residence and sponsorship.
The US embassy's Charge d’Affaires, Michael Ratney, said: “Trafficking is a serious problem as many expatriate workers make arrangements to come and work in Qatar for a certain wage and a certain number of hours, but then often find themselves to be working double the hours for half the pay when they actually get here.
“The current sponsorship and labor laws mean that this practice is all too common, and we have urged the Qatari government to look into this.”
A recent human rights report commissioned by the US State Department, covering countries to which America provides foreign assistance, made uncomfortable reading regarding the lives of some expatriate workers. It stated: “Men and women from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East travel willingly to Qatar as laborers and domestic servants but often subsequently face conditions of forced labor and physical and sexual exploitation.
“Legislation guiding the sponsorship of expatriate laborers created conditions constituting forced labour or slavery.
“The dependence of foreign laborers on their employer for residency rights and the inability to change employment or to travel without the sponsor's permission leaves them vulnerable to abuse and arrest.”
He said: “With its strong leadership (Qatar) has the potential to set an example in the region.” And part of that example would be a “liberalisation of the code that governs workers in Qatar".
Amendments to the current sponsorship law, insisted Ratney, would benefit not only the largely expatriate workforce but also result in increased competition to the benefit of all.
The US Department’s human rights report on Qatar for the year 2007 was based on information received from a variety of sources, including governments and multilateral institutions, national and international non-governmental groups, academics, jurists, religious groups and the media.
Source: Gulf Times