Migrant workers on diplomatic crisis frontline

Migrant laborers work at a construction site in Doha in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 15 June 2017
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Migrant workers on diplomatic crisis frontline

DOHA: Ajit, an Indian electrician, is just seven months into his new job but right now he is a worried man, like many other members of the huge migrant workforce in Qatar.
He frets not only about his job, his future in the country but also the price of food.
“If this continues, there will be problems for people like us, the workers. The price of food will go up and there will be no jobs,” he told AFP.
He was referring to the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf that has seen Qatar isolated.
Ajit earns QR1,000 a month ($275), of which he sends QR600 home to his family.
He worries he would not be able to do that for much longer.
“In some supermarkets, the price of rice, tomatoes and onions has increased,” he said. “Where I was spending one riyal on each item, now it is double that.”
Ajit has come up with a solution to cope with the rising food prices in Doha — cut down to just one meal a day.
The 31-year-old is typical of the nervous migrant workforce.
As the crisis imploded, discussion has largely focused on the political and security aspects of the row between some of the richest countries in one of the world’s most volatile regions.
But outside the corridors of power, it is Qatar’s foreign workforce — totaling more than 2 million, mostly from south Asia — who are on the frontline when it comes to the immediate impact of the crisis.
While Qatar’s Western expats are likely to ride out the economic impact, there is no such luxury for Ajit and his colleagues.
The rising price of staple foods is just one of their fears.
Concerns are also growing about job security and the lack of much-needed overtime as economic uncertainty grows, due to what Doha has labeled the “blockade” imposed by neighboring countries.
“I have heard people saying there will be no more jobs in Qatar,” added Ajit.
A short distance away stood Anil, a 32-year-old scaffolder from Bangladesh, in blue overalls and a purple face-cover to shield from the fierce summer sun.
He was resting after a morning of labor in heat of 48 degrees Celsius in the rundown Doha suburb of Mshereib that is being transformed into a gleaming cafe, hotel and business area ready for the 2022 football World Cup.
“Everybody is talking about this problem (the crisis),” said Anil, 32. “Some people are saying they may send us home.”
In just one week since Qatar was cut off, Anil said the price of the apples he buys has more than doubled, from QR7 to QR18 per kilo.
“I’ve heard Qatar is supporting terrorists and that’s why they’ve been blockaded,” said Abdulbariq, 38, an electrician.
The Bangladeshi uses the money he earns — QR820 a month — to send his two daughters to school in India.
“This will affect them,” he fears.
The Gulf crisis could not have hit the workforce at a worse time.
Because of Ramadan, working hours have already been reduced and there is no chance to make up any shortfall through overtime. That though is only a temporary measure.
Although Qatari officials have, so far, confidently shrugged off the economic impact of isolation, that view is not shared on the country’s many construction sites.
“I have a father, brother, mother and sisters to look after, I send home QR1,500 a month,” said Noor-ul-Islam, a 26-year-old mason from Bangladesh. “Definitely there will be problems for my family if this crisis continues.”


US Mideast plan will not include land transfer from Egypt’s Sinai: envoy

Updated 20 April 2019
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US Mideast plan will not include land transfer from Egypt’s Sinai: envoy

JERUSALEM: US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan will not involve giving land from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula to the Palestinians, an American envoy said on Friday.
Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East envoy, apparently sought to deny reports on social media that the long-awaited plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would involve extending Gaza into the northern Sinai along Egypt’s Mediterranean coast.
“Hearing reports our plan includes the concept that we will give a portion of Sinai (which is Egypt’s) to Gaza. False!,” Greenblatt, one of the architects of the proposal, tweeted on Friday.
The American plan is expected to be unveiled once Israel’s newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forms a government coalition and after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in June.
Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner said on Wednesday the plan would require compromise by all parties, a source familiar with his remarks said.
It is unclear whether the plan will propose outright the creation of a Palestinian state, the Palestinians’ core demand.
The Palestinians have long sought to set up a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The last round of US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014.