More than 300 distressed Bangladeshis without salary in Qatar for 6 months

In this Nov. 7, 2014, file photo, men talk by the sea overlooking the Qatar skyline in Doha, Qatar. (AP)
Updated 14 November 2018

More than 300 distressed Bangladeshis without salary in Qatar for 6 months

  • Bangladesh mission officials said around 400,000 Bangladeshi migrants were working in Qatar
  • Around 100 Bangladeshi workers left the camp in the past few days and repatriated to Bangladesh

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.


Post-Brexit talks gear up for fish fight between EU, UK

Updated 20 min 42 sec ago

Post-Brexit talks gear up for fish fight between EU, UK

  • Industry and financial services are much more important in economic terms
  • Every coastal member state wanted to catch as many fish as possible, despite dwindling stocks and scientific warnings

KILKEEL, Northern Ireland: When it comes to UK-European Union relations, there’s nothing like slapping a fish around. After all, both sides have been contesting who rules their waves practically since the United Kingdom became a member in 1973.
So it’s not so surprising that once the United Kingdom officially leaves the EU on Friday night, one of the first things the two sides will wrestle over during negotiations on their post-divorce relationship is the comparatively tiny fisheries industry.
“Perhaps in many ways, fisheries is the acid test of Brexit,” said British politician and leading Brexiteer Nigel Farage.
Industry and financial services are much more important in economic terms. But somehow fish and chips in Britain and sole meuniere on the continent stir much stronger emotions.
“For example, our car industry and chemicals industry alone are worth 20 times the value of the fishing industry.” said Chris Davies, an English Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament who is head of the EU’s fisheries committee until he leaves on Friday.
“It is much more important, of course, to the economy in Britain as a whole that we get access for those products,” Davies said.
That doesn’t ring right in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland, and other UK ports where resentment against EU fishing policies that allow vessels from other nations in the bloc to catch stocks in rich British waters runs deep.
“This fleet has been stymied now for, what, 30, 30-plus years in terms of fish being taken off us and given to other member states. It has been a struggle,” said Alan McCulla, CEO of the local ANIFPO fishing cooperative.
“Fishermen here have lost thousands of tons of fishing opportunities valued at millions of pounds,” McCulla said.
Brexiteers have thrived for years on similar words of perceived wrongdoing by faceless bureaucrats encroaching on age-old British sovereignty. And no one has done that more effectively than Farage, who has been driving the UK toward the EU’s exit door for decades, mostly from inside the European Parliament itself — where he served as a British MEP for over two decades.
Farage knows how the briny whiff of the sea tugs at the nation’s heartstrings.
“The greatness of Britain has always been what we’ve done on the seas, whether it’s through the Royal Navy or through our merchant fleets,” Farage said in an interview with The Associated Press. “So fisheries is actually — symbolically — very, very important.”
Farage led a flotilla of fishing boats up the River Thames to Britain’s Parliament in last-ditch campaigning before the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016. It turned out that every bit helped, as Britain stunningly decided to leave the bloc with a narrow 52 percent-48 percent margin.
Fish in waters off Britain were still abundant in the 1970s and fishing towns still thrived.
But for just about the duration of Britain’s membership, stocks of North Sea cod to English Channel sole were in decline. And for British fishermen it was easy to point fingers at foreign vessels and EU headquarters in Brussels. Every coastal member state wanted to catch as many fish as possible, despite dwindling stocks and scientific warnings.
First, the EU forced boats to stay in ports and restricted quotas, limiting access to fish. And when British fishermen then saw EU boats in their shared waters, anger came naturally.
The broad promise of Brexit always was to regain control and there is a physical sense of control when a 200-nautical mile zone is set for the UK, instead of the current 12 miles.
“The UK should determine what level of access from EU boats is allowed in. It shouldn’t be a free-for-all just because they’ve been there for years and years. The rules have changed, and we’re taking back control of our own waters,” said Brian Chambers, who owns the “Boy Paul” with his brother and mainly fishes off the coast of Ireland and the Isle of Man for crab and scallops. He voted “leave.”
Farage says Brexit could make sure boom years lie ahead for Britain’s workforce of 8,000 fishermen that nets just under €1 billion ($1.1 billion) worth of annual catches.
“If we get fisheries right, we will bring tens of thousands of jobs back to our coastal communities,” he said.
However, the EU has already made it clear negotiations won’t be that simple. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s office has already informed diplomats from the 27 member states that “reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained.” That means pretty much looking for the status quo that UK fishermen hate so much.
And the EU can also play the history card.
“European vessels have been fishing in those waters forever. The Vikings would have dragged a net behind their longboats when they came over 1,000 years ago,” Davies, of the EU parliament fisheries committee, said.
“So, not surprisingly, the Dutch and the French and others are saying ‘we want this to continue, historically, it’s our right,’” he said.
Furthermore, while Britons may have their fish-rich waters, the EU has an even richer consumer market.
“British fishermen are going to have to accept that so long as they are selling 70% of all the fish they catch into the European continental market, their bargaining power is not that great,” Davies said.
Again, fishermen can already feel the squeeze. Even if they are revered and romanticized for being some of the last true hunters in Europe, many have long been squeezed out economically. As fish needed to be protected, they felt the politicians didn’t protect them. The promise of Brexit gave them a new hope, but now the realities of hard-nosed negotiations set in.
The fear is that their desire to get better ownership of their fishing grounds might just become the merest of pawns in the talks between both sides.
McCulla of the ANIFPO cooperative is trying to look at the bright side.
“I’ve no doubt that Europeans will still be able to fish in UK waters in the future,” he said. “But the important difference is that they will have to have that access under the terms of UK PLC, not under the terms of Brussels. And in the future Britannia will rule Britannia’s waves.”