Qatar laborer ‘sacked’ after speaking to UN team

In recent years Doha claims to have made great strides in labour relations, including reforms to ensure wages are paid promptly, improved accommodations and the abolition of kafala for a new, contract-based system. (AFP)
Updated 26 September 2017
0

Qatar laborer ‘sacked’ after speaking to UN team

DOHA: A Nepalese construction worker in Qatar was “sacked” the day after speaking to a UN delegation visiting the 2022 World Cup host country to examine labor conditions, sources told AFP.
The incident is considered serious enough that the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) said it would be on the agenda when its governing body meets in two months to discuss an investigation into allegations of forced labor by Qatar.
“The ILO has been following closely this case and continues to do so with a view to ensuring that the rights of this Nepalese worker are fully respected and protected,” Corinne Vargha, director of the ILO’s international labor standards department, told AFP in a statement.
The case was raised in a previous meeting of the ILO governing body in March 2017, Vargha said, in the context of a complaint against Doha for non-compliance with two ratified ILO international conventions — namely the Forced Labour Convention and the Labour Inspection Convention.
“The complaint will be further discussed by the Governing Body at its November 2017 session,” she added.
That meeting could see the ILO launch a formal investigation into Qatar over its treatment of migrant workers.
The construction worker’s plight has also been confirmed by two separate unions.
The incident occurred in March 2016, but could only now be reported because of sensitivities surrounding the case.
It happened when a six-strong team from the ILO visited a Qatar labor camp.
As well as losing his job after telling the UN body about unpaid wages and employers illegally holding his passport, the laborer was also handed a one-way ticket home to Nepal by bosses, unions said.
Officials at the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) say the timing of the dismissal “indicates it was a retaliatory act by his employer.”
“This is a violation under international labor standards and contradicts the commitments Qatar has repeatedly made before the ILO,” said ITUC head Sharan Burrow.
The union said the 29-year-old worker never left Qatar, but was subsequently jailed for two weeks due to losing his work sponsor and faced a fine of 4,600 Qatari riyals ($1,240).
Under the “kafala” system, the prevailing law at the time of the incident, all foreign workers in Qatar required a local sponsor in order to work and maintain residency.
That sponsor, whether an individual or company, must grant permission for the laborer to switch jobs or leave the country.
The Nepalese national was not working on a World Cup project.
The man’s case was cleared earlier this year and he opted to stay in Qatar, working for a new employer and earning around 1,600 Qatari riyals ($430) per month.
In response, Qatar’s labor ministry told AFP it was aware of the case and all issues had been resolved.
It insisted the case began when the worker left his job in violation of Qatar’s residency and employment laws.
“The worker has been granted legal status in Qatar and all financial disputes have been settled with his previous employer.
“The Government can confirm that it has been in contact with the ILO about the resolution of this case,” a ministry statement said.
In recent years Doha says it has made great strides in labor relations, including reforms to ensure wages are paid promptly, improved accommodation and the abolition of kafala for a contract-based system.
Migrant workers’ expert Nicholas McGeehan said the case demonstrated there remained real problems in Qatar’s treatment of laborers.
“The reality is that Qatar’s reforms have been cosmetic and aimed not at improving the situation but rather at presenting a sense of progress.”


Iraqi war victims turn to social media to find medical help

Updated 55 min 22 sec ago
0

Iraqi war victims turn to social media to find medical help

  • Saleem lost her eyesight, right arm and an ear in the explosion, set off by a roadside bomb
  • They were faced with hospital bills they couldn't afford for treatment

BAGHDAD: It was spring 2007 in northern Iraq when 6-year-old Saja Saleem raced home from school with the good news about her excellent grades, hoping to receive the gift her father had promised her.
“All of a sudden, I found myself spinning into the air with fire trailing from my school uniform after a loud boom,” Saleem, now 17, recounted to The Associated Press.
Saleem lost her eyesight, right arm and an ear in the explosion, set off by a roadside bomb. Months later, her disfiguring injuries forced her to drop out of school after other students complained about her “scary face.”
Feeling helpless, Saleem recently turned to social media to find help. Eventually, her appeal grabbed the attention of a surgeon who offered free treatment.
Others have also reached out on social media.
Emotional videos and photographs of Iraqis with war wounds and disabilities have overwhelmed social media platforms, mainly Facebook, widely used in Iraq.
The widespread violence unleashed by the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein and the 2014-2017 battle against the Daesh group has wounded hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Many are maimed and scarred, their suffering lingering long after the violence subsides.
Poor medical services, scarcity of specialized staff and medical centers, and poverty have exacerbated the suffering. Those who cannot get treatment at state-run hospitals and cannot afford private clinics are looking to social media platforms to make appeals.
Appeals are posted on the personal Facebook pages of patients or on the pages of aid organizations and public figures with tens of thousands of followers. Patients describe their condition along with contact details. Messages are also distributed on platforms like WhatsApp and Viber.
Saleem and her family recall the explosion that upended her life, and the years that followed as they struggled financially to get her treatment.

The moment her life changed
“When I hit the ground, I felt severe pain all over my body ... I was bleeding, a pool of blood around me ... everything turned dark and I lost consciousness,” she recalled from her bed at a Baghdad hospital where she is undergoing free reconstructive and plastic surgeries.
Saleem’s mother, Khawla Omar Hussein, remembers her daughter’s screams when three weeks later, she regained consciousness and realized she had lost her right arm and ear.
“She woke up screaming, crying: ‘Mammy, mammy’,” Hussein recalled. “Then she asked: ‘Why can’t I see and why is everything dark?’“
They told her it was the bandages over her eyes and that she would see after they were removed. When that day came, the doctors told her she had lost both eyes.
Nearly two years later, Saleem’s family tried to send her back to school where she was accepted only as a “listener” in class, accompanying her brothers. But that arrangement ended soon as other students and teachers complained that her disfigured face was bothering them.
“I was crying day and night and became a very reclusive person,” Saleem said.
After the state-run hospital couldn’t go beyond the necessary treatment to save her life, Saleem’s family looked for plastic and reconstructive surgery for her at a private clinic, but they couldn’t afford the doctor’s $7,500 fee.

Her mother's appeal

Then, late last year, her mother made an appeal, posting photographs of Saleem and details about her ordeal in a public group on Viber. Days later, Baghdad-based Dr. Abbas Al-Sahan, one of Iraq’s best plastic surgeons, offered to do free surgeries.
Since January, Saleem has undergone four surgeries — first so her face could accommodate the two glass eyes, or ocular prostheses, then a procedure to reduce some of the scars. She also had a surgery to adjust to a prosthetic arm and is due to have plastic surgery to reconstruct her missing ear, Al-Sahan said.
Al-Sahan runs the only state-run specialized hospital for reconstructive and plastic surgery in Iraq. He said that about 40 percent of the monthly surgeries his hospital preforms — between 600 to 850 — are for victims of bombings and other war-related explosions, as well as for casualties of military operations.
Saleem’s family feels she is lucky. Not everyone gets the help they need through social media.
Iraqi army Capt. Salar Al-Jaff was shot by a sniper in January 2017, during the height of the fight to recapture the northern city of Mosul from the Daesh group. The bullet hit him in the head and left him paralyzed in one side of his body.
Since then, he has been treated for the head wound and for complications from lying in bed all the time, but not for the paralysis. He sold his car and all his possessions to be able to afford three injections a day, each costing $100, to overcome the pain.
He also appeared in a video, posted on social media, alongside a cleric who asks that someone help Al-Jaff.
But so far, there have been no offers for free treatment.