Stuck in Qatar: Canadians told they could be fired for leaving COVID-19 hot zone

Employees at the College of the North Atlantic (CNA), a Canadian college contracted by Qatar to run a campus in Doha, have said they fear job losses or reprisal from the Qatari government. (CNA-Qatar.com)
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Updated 20 June 2020

Stuck in Qatar: Canadians told they could be fired for leaving COVID-19 hot zone

  • College employees desperate to leave country that has world’s highest per-capita infection rate

LONDON: Canadian employees at a college in Qatar have been threatened with job losses if they leave the country over the summer, despite scorching heat and sky-high COVID-19 infection rates.

Employees at the College of the North Atlantic (CNA), a Canadian college contracted by Qatar to run a campus in Doha, have said they fear job losses or reprisal from the Qatari government if they leave the country over the summer.

“Living in a country that has, for weeks, had the highest per-capita number of positive COVID-19 cases in the world is extremely stressful, and several CNA-Q (CNA Qatar) employees are anxious to leave for summer,” one employee said.

The college employs 650 staff, the majority of whom are Canadian. Foreign staff usually return home for the summer to avoid the heat, a factor that this year has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People just want to return to Canada for the summer to get away from this pressure cooker for a few weeks and be with family,” another staff member said.

A spokesperson for the college said: “CNA-Q employees who decide to leave Qatar and do not return to work at CNA-Q when required may have their employment agreement terminated.”

The employees who spoke with CBC News all said they were initially discouraged from leaving the country when the pandemic began, but were not threatened with any measures against them.

In addition to the obstacles employees face trying to go home for the summer, they have also been told that they will be forced to return to classrooms when teaching resumes in September. This decision has apparently bewildered many college staff. 

One staff member said: “CNA employees have been teaching online from mid-March and it’s working. Many employees can’t understand why they can’t continue to do this from the safety (of) their home country.”

With more than 85,000 COVID-19 infections among a population of just 2.8 million, Qatar has the highest per-capita infection rate in the world.

The country is in the process of reopening public spaces despite recording over 1,000 new infections per day.


Lebanese patriarch warns of crisis without a government after Adib steps down

Updated 57 min 24 sec ago

Lebanese patriarch warns of crisis without a government after Adib steps down

  • Al-Rai said Adib’s resignation had ‘disappointed citizens, especially the youth’
  • Frustration at Adib’s failure to form government was voiced by Lebanon’s religious communities

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top Christian cleric said on Sunday the nation faced “multiple dangers” that would be hard to weather without a government, speaking a day after the prime minister-designate quit following his failed bid to form a cabinet.
Mustapha Adib stepped down on Saturday after hitting a roadblock over how to make appointments in the sectarian system, striking a blow to a French initiative that aimed to haul the nation out of its deepest crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who had pressed Lebanon’s fractious politicians to reach a consensus so that Adib was named on Aug. 31, is to due to speak about the crisis in a news conference in Paris later on Sunday.
Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, leader of the Maronite church, Lebanon’s biggest Christian community, said Adib’s resignation had “disappointed citizens, especially the youth, who were betting on the start of change in the political class.”
Many top politicians, both Christian and Muslim, have held sway for years or even decades. Some are former warlords.
Rai said Lebanon now had to navigate “multiple dangers” without a government at the helm.
Rai’s comments were echoed on the streets of Beirut, where mass protests erupted in 2019 as years of mismanagement, corruption and mounting debts finally led to economic collapse, paralysing banks and sending the currency into freefall.
“There needs to be fundamental change. We need new people. We need new blood,” said 24-year-old Hassan Amer, serving coffee from a roadside cafe in the capital, which was hammered by a huge port blast on Aug. 4 that killed almost 200 people.
In nearby streets, walls were still plastered with graffiti from the protests, including the popular call for sweeping out the old guard: “All of them means all of them.”
Frustration at the failure of Adib, a Sunni Muslim, to form a government was voiced by many across Lebanon’s religious communities. Prime ministers under Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system must be Sunnis.
A senior Shiite Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Qabalan, said on Saturday Adib’s resignation as the economy collapsed could “be described as a disaster,” calling for national unity to deliver reforms, the state news agency reported.
The cabinet formation effort stumbled after Lebanon’s two main Shiite groups, Amal and the heavily armed Iran-backed Hezbollah, demanded they name several ministers, including finance, a key role as the nation draws up a rescue plan.
Saad Al-Hariri, a former prime minister and leading Sunni politician, said in a statement he would not be involved in naming any new premier and said the French plan was “the last and only opportunity to halt Lebanon’s collapse.”
A French roadmap laid out a reform program for a new government to help trigger billions of dollars of international aid.