Labor conditions in Qatar spark fear of coronavirus outbreak going out of control

Migrant labourers work at a construction site at the Aspire Zone in Doha, Qatar, March 26, 2016. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 March 2020

Labor conditions in Qatar spark fear of coronavirus outbreak going out of control

  • Qatar has faced international condemnation for its treatment of migrant workers

RIYADH: Qatar on Wednesday said 238 new coronavirus cases had been discovered among expatriates quarantined in a residential compound.
The huge jump in cases - from 24 to 262 - was announced in a health ministry statement that failed to clarify if the infected are migrant workers living in labor camps.
Qatar has faced international condemnation for its treatment of migrant workers, particularly those employed on major construction projects linked to the World Cup 2022.
Laborers recruited from poor countries like Pakistan and Nepal often live packed into camps in the desert from where they are bussed to the construction sites.
Among the many reports documenting the abuses, Amnesty International found in 2016 that workers at one of the flagship stadiums were forced to live in squalid accommodation, pay huge recruitment fees and had wages withheld and passports confiscated.
Some observers suggested Qatar’s lack of transparency over the coronavirus raised questions about whether the infection could be going through one of the labor camps.
“Anyone know if these 238 new coronavirus cases discovered in Qatar are migrant laborers?” asked Brian Whitaker, the former Middle East editor at The Guardian newspaper. “They are described as expatriates in shared accommodation,” he added.
Qatar claims it has enacted a series of reforms to protect workers, but Amnesty said last year abuses continued and hundreds of workers were going unpaid as those reforms stalled.


Kuwaiti PM assures cabinet on the emir's health

Updated 46 min 53 sec ago

Kuwaiti PM assures cabinet on the emir's health

CAIRO: Kuwait’s prime minister assured the cabinet on Monday of the 91-year-old emir’s health which he said had remarkably improved, Kuwait’s Council of Ministers said in a tweet.
Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah is in the United States completing medical treatment following surgery for an unspecified condition in Kuwait.