DHAKA: “We had to face starvation for three days on Sept 8, 9 and 10. Now, every day we are getting two meals from a Qatar charity,” said Kazi Lutfur Rahman, a Bangladeshi migrant who has worked with Doha-based estate agent Hamton International since 2012.
“Around 1,000 migrant workers from Asia and Africa are now living a very miserable life in a camp without electricity and water supply.”
Like Rahman, around 300 Bangladeshi migrants are now living in uncertainty in Qatar since the employer Hamton International has not paid their salary for about six months. The workers are now living in a camp at Al Shahaniya, about 20km from Doha.
“The Qatar charity provides us with diesel to produce electricity during the night only for two hours, and for a shower we rush to a nearby church,” Rahman, 44, told Arab News.
The crisis in Hamton started in April this year when the staff remained unpaid for two months. After the workers’ agitation in June the employer paid them two months’ salary in arrears and promised to pay the due amount on June 20.
But still the workers remained unpaid. Later on Hamton management increased the time to July and promised to pay the due salary on Sept.10.
“Just two days before the payment date the authority closed the operations of the company and we fell into uncertainty about our due payments,” added Rahman, who has worked for Hamton since July 2012 and used to receive around $550 salary per month.
Apart from Bangladeshis, there are 1,000 other migrants from India, Nepal, Ghana and Sri Lanka, Rahman said.
Sirajul Islam, labor secretary of the Bangladesh mission in Qatar, told Arab News: “We are very concerned about the sufferings of our migrants and already we have contacted the Qatar Labor Ministry to resolve the crisis.”
He said that among the 333 Bangladeshis, around 150 workers joined last June/July and all of them spent around $4,300 to get the job.
“We are trying to replace the Bangladeshi workers in some other local companies. Already the Qatar Labor Ministry has initiated the issue and it may take another one or two weeks to place many of them in the new job.”
However, around 100 Bangladeshi workers left the camp in the past few days and repatriated to Bangladesh. According to the Bangladesh mission authority, they were compensated by the concerned recruiting agencies in Bangladesh which sent the workers to Qatar and the repatriated migrants have authorized the Bangladesh mission in Doha to receive the money from their company in their absence.
Family members of the distressed Bangladeshi migrants are living in anxiety and have had sleepless nights for the past two months.
Morium Begum, 35, Rahman’s wife, told Arab News: “I want the safe return of my husband and the employer should pay the due amount.”
She added: “We have one son and two daughters. All of them are studying in school and college. Last night I noticed my elder daughter was weeping alone about her father, which was unbearable for me as a mother.”
Repeated attempts were made to reach Hamton International’s top management, but none of the telephone numbers on its official letterhead was in service.
Bangladesh mission officials said around 400,000 Bangladeshi migrants were working in Qatar. Of them, 75 percent are engaged in construction work and around 100,000 are employed as drivers, housemaids and cleaning staff.