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.


East Mediterranean states formally establish Egypt-based gas forum

Updated 22 September 2020

East Mediterranean states formally establish Egypt-based gas forum

  • Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Jordan established the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) as an intergovernmental organization in a virtual ceremony hosted by Cairo
  • The group unites regional rivals of Turkey, which has been locked in a bitter dispute with European Union members Greece and Cyprus over gas drilling rights in the region

CAIRO: Six states signed a charter for an Egypt-based energy forum on Tuesday, giving formal status to a group that seeks to promote natural gas exports from the eastern Mediterranean and that Israel hopes will strengthen ties with Arab neighbors.
Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Jordan established the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) as an intergovernmental organization in a virtual ceremony hosted by Cairo.
The group unites regional rivals of Turkey, which has been locked in a bitter dispute with European Union members Greece and Cyprus over gas drilling rights in the region.
The Palestinian Authority is also part of the forum, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement.
France has applied to join, with the United States and European Union requesting observer status.
For Israel, the forum “brings regional cooperation with Arab and European countries, the first of its kind in history, with contracts to export (Israeli) gas to Jordan and Egypt worth $30 billion, and that is just the beginning,” added Steinitz.
Egypt began importing Israeli gas at the start of this year, for possible re-export to Europe or Asia.
The 2015 discovery of the giant offshore Zohr field had unlocked interest in Egypt’s energy market and encouraged Cairo to promote itself as a regional hub.
However, regional politics, infrastructure and transport costs, and rivalry between Turkey and eastern Mediterranean neighbors, complicate prospects for exploiting and transporting gas from the region.