Time running out on Qatar labor reform, warns Amnesty

A file picture taken on November 16, 2014 shows migrant workers at a construction site in Doha, Qatar. Amnesty international on Tuesday said Qatar is running out of time to stamp out widespread serious labor abuse for tens of thousands of migrant workers before hosting the 2022 World Cup. (AFP)
Updated 05 February 2019
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Time running out on Qatar labor reform, warns Amnesty

  • Amnesty called on Qatar to strengthen and properly enforce current labor laws
  • It also called for much better protection for some 175,000 domestic workers, who remain “out of sight and out of mind”

DOHA: Qatar is running out of time to stamp out widespread serious labor abuse for tens of thousands of migrant workers before hosting the 2022 World Cup, Amnesty International warned Tuesday.
The human rights group said in a yet another critical labor report that despite well-publicized “nascent reforms,” Qatar risks breaking its promise to the world to deliver meaningful change before football’s biggest tournament is hosted for the first time in the Middle East.
“Time is running out if the Qatari authorities want to deliver a legacy we can all cheer, namely a labor system that ends the abuse and misery inflicted upon so many migrant workers every day,” said Amnesty’s Stephen Cockburn.
Although the “Reality Check” report focuses on conditions for all of the two million migrant workers in Qatar, not just the 30,000 on direct World Cup projects, Amnesty said FIFA had an “ongoing responsibility” to prevent abuse.
The report stated that despite reforms, conditions “for many migrant workers in Qatar remain harsh.”
Amnesty called on Qatar to strengthen and properly enforce current labor laws, tackle worker debt by increasing the minimum wage, stop passports being held by bosses and, crucially, fundamentally overhaul the “kafala,” or sponsorship, system.
This practice, which ties workers to their employers, restricts their ability to change jobs or leave the country, remains firmly in place, said Amnesty, despite Doha’s promises to end the system.
Amnesty also called for much better protection for some 175,000 domestic workers, who remain “out of sight and out of mind.”
“Holes in the reforms to date mean many workers are still stuck in harsh conditions, vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, while those who return home do so empty handed, with no compensation and no justice,” added Cockburn.
The report could temper the current jubilatory mood in Qatar, where there has been widespread celebration since the national team won its first ever Asian Cup at the weekend.
The wealthy gas-rich state has initiated a series of labor reforms in recent years following intense international pressure and at a time of deep political tension within the Gulf, which has seen Qatar isolated by former neighboring allies.
Qatar has introduced a monthly minimum wage of 750 Qatari riyals ($206, 180 euros), a system to ensure workers are paid electronically, and partially scrapped the exit visa system which meant workers had to seek employers’ permission before leaving the country.
It also agreed in 2017 to work closely with the International Labour Organization (ILO), which now has a Doha office, to improve workers’ conditions.


Israel braces for more wildfires as temperatures spike

Updated 24 May 2019
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Israel braces for more wildfires as temperatures spike

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Israel is bracing for renewed wildfires amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions.
The EU ambassador, Emanuele Giaufret, said Israel had asked for international help to combat the fires, and aid was arriving on Friday from Cyprus and Italy.
Plumes of smoke rose from hillsides in the country’s center and south as firefighters worked into the early hours to control the blaze.
The cause of the blaze remains unclear, but it erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.