Migrant workers on diplomatic crisis frontline

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

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.”


Militant group says cease-fire reached to fighting in Gaza

Updated 12 min 15 sec ago

Militant group says cease-fire reached to fighting in Gaza

  • Spokesman Musab Al-Berim says the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 5:30 a.m. Thursday
  • The fighting broke out early Tuesday after Israel killed a senior commander of the militant group

GAZA: A militant group says a cease-fire has been reached to end two days of heavy fighting with Israel.

Spokesman Musab Al-Berim says the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 5:30 a.m. (0330 GMT) Thursday.

He says the cease-fire was based on a list of demands presented by his group late Wednesday, including a halt to Israeli targeted killings of the group’s leaders.

Israel will follow suit if Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip stop cross-border attacks, an Israeli official said on Thursday, denying that Israel had changed open-fire policy as demanded by the militant group for a truce.

“Quiet will be answered with quiet,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz told Army Radio. “The State of Israel will not hesitate to strike at those who try to harm it, from the Gaza Strip or from anywhere else.”

The fighting broke out early Tuesday after Israel killed a senior commander of the militant group.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.