The global recession is causing a heightened sense of job insecurity among millions of migrant workers making them more vulnerable to abuse, say migrant rights advocates.
The slowdown in the global economy has already compelled many companies to retrench workers and stop hiring. The International Labor Organization(ILO) forecasts that the crisis will result in the loss of some 20 million jobs, with migrant workers among the most likely to be retrenched.
Media here have a clear role to play in highlighting issues like the latent racism which apparently exists in Qatar. In doing so, media can highlight such issues to the public and bring them to the attention of the higher authorities here.
While their countrymen dined on lavish Christmas meals, seven Filipino welders, who recently lost their jobs, begged for food at the Corniche and Fish Market here in order to have something to eat.
They are among the 23 foreign workers who were laid-off when the construction company they were working for closed shop about four months ago.
Instead of going home, they decided to stay and fight for their salaries equivalent to four months which the company failed to give them. Their case is being heard by a local labor court.
Gulf states are seeking to buy people's silence through state hand-outs while unskilled foreign workers are living in conditions 'unacceptable to cats and dogs,' according to a leading Bahraini newspaper editor.
The plight of laborers appears to be more gruesome in the Gulf, where the expatriate workers’ vulnerability is greater than that of illegal immigrants in the US and Europe, a leading international expert on migration has said.
Alejandro Portes, director of the Center for Migration & Development at the Princeton University, US, told Gulf Times: “This is a peculiar situation. Because even the illegal residents in the US and Europe can at least change employers as they are not attached to a single one.”
A Nepali worker who broke his leg at a worksite accident some 15 months ago, has been left without proper treatment as his employer failed to inform the police about the incident. The worker claimed that he was “warned by his company” not to inform the police about the accident that took place on June 20 last year.
The 39-year-old electrician met with the accident 32 days after his arrival in Qatar. He fractured his leg after falling from a ladder at the company’s worksite in Wakrah.
The Ministry of Labor has suspended or warned more than 850 companies this year for violating various labor laws and stopped dealing with them till they comply with all sections of the laws.
Labor ministry inspectors conducted raids, over the last eight months, to identify firm that violated the law.
Inspectors were deployed to company premises, works sites and accommodations to check whether health and safety requirements were fulfilled as per Qatar's labor law.
Transactions with companies have been suspended for different period of time in accordance to the type of violation.
A number of small businesses have been accused of exploiting their workers by denying them simple benefits laid down in Qatar’s labor law.
According to some employees – many of whom put in long hours in grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias, juice stalls and convenience shops – their bosses are routinely flouting the rules because they know they can get away with it.
A group of construction workers have been sleeping in the open for the past eight months – because it is better than living in the “hell” of labor camp accommodation.
Five men, four from North Africa and a south Asian, were seen bedding down for the night next to an under-construction 7-storey residential building at 11pm in the heart of Doha on Wednesday.
“It is an irony that we build these ‘residential apartments’ and don’t have a roof to sleep under,” said one visibly exhausted worker.
Increasing numbers of Nepalese workers are being deported merely for seeking payment of their outstanding wage arrears, Nepal’s ambassador has charged. Ambassador Surya Nath Mishra told Gulf Times that the issue was quite serious.
For instance, when a poor worker does not get paid, he comes under tremendous pressure from his family back home who depend on his meager monthly remittances.
Obviously, when the remittances stop, the family would starve and this makes the worker frustrated and tense.
Pushed to the wall, the worker would go up to the employer to seek the arrears.
Exploitation of Bangladeshi migrant workers begins with the seizure of their passports by employers, say former diplomats and ambassadors who served in Middle Eastern countries.
They say holding passports makes the workers slaves of the employers as police will send foreign workers to jail if they are caught without their documents.
The workers claim they are helpless, being caught in a dilemma, as employers threaten lower-than-contract wages if they refuse to hand over their passports.
Last week in a rare development in Middle East, thousands of Bangladeshi workers went to strike protesting poor living conditions, serious abuse and human rights violations.
Sri Lanka will cut the number of maids it sends to the Middle East, a labor official said, citing increased complaints of abuse by women migrant workers.
"We want to reduce the number of women migrant workers mainly because of complaints we received from those in Middle East countries," Kingsley Ranawaka, the chairman of Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment told Reuters.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait have been the main markets for over 700,000 Sri Lankan maids who have increasingly complained of rights abuses.
The Indian ambassador in Doha has proposed creation of a central pool of domestic workers to protect the interests of both employers and employees, and to end exploitation.
The pool of household employees like maids and drivers could be governed by a specialized organization under the responsibility of the Qatari government. The organization could sponsor the employees while the citizens of Qatar would be only employers.
This will lead to a win-win situation, and “satisfy the requirements of both sides”, Dr George Joseph told Gulf Times.
First you should know this: The Qatari government gives a grant to every citizen who gets married, from $2,500 to astronomical sums, in accordance with income level. A young Qatari man will also receive a plot of land worth $200,000, $150,000 to build his home, and of course $15,000 to buy furniture.
A QATARI man is charged with impersonating a policeman in order to steal QR3,840 from Bangladeshi laborers.
According to the expatriate workers, the 44-year-old man carried out the crime one afternoon in late January.
They told investigators the accused had twice entered the workers’ camp claiming to be a policeman. On the first occasion he left without incident, but on the second visit he walked into an open room and found a computer.
Mohammed Fouad, legal consultant to Qatar's national human rights committee, is juggling two phones in a new building between a Qatar Airways office and a branch of Villeroy and Boch, an upmarket household goods boutique.
Mr Fouad has an unenviable task. This month the US State Department kept Qatar and three fellow members of the Gulf Co-operation Council - Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait - on Tier 3, the poorest possible rating in its Trafficking in Persons report.
Domestic workers in Qatar will soon be covered by a law providing them with better working conditions.
The Advisory Council approved the 26-article law at its weekly session yesterday. The draft now needs HH the Emir’s approval.
According to the draft law, domestic helps shall be entitled to a paid day off a week in addition to time for rest, food and sleep as stipulated in Article 13. The employer should pay the monthly salary by the third day of every month either in cash or deposit the amount in a bank account in the employee’s name.
A 20-year-old Qatari has denied causing death by reckless driving – telling a court he was travelling at “only” 140kph.
The presiding judge, Salah al-Sharif, reminded him that the maximum speed on the country’s roads was 120kph and that the accident took place in an 80kph zone.
Furthermore, should he be found guilty of the offence, he will have to pay blood money out of his own pocket because his car was not insured at the time. The driver also told the court his brakes had not been working.
SKY-HIGH rents and lack of living space are turning Doha’s old town into a slum with makeshift rooms stacked on top of residential buildings. One area visited by Gulf Times in Doha ‘Jadeed’ found a number of low-income workers sleeping in shelters made up of old mattresses, scrap metal and tin roofs.
“Welcome to the ghetto of Doha,” greeted Ahmadzai, who was dripping with sweat while sitting in the courtyard of a building at 3.30pm.