UN report: Qatar’s migrant workers face ‘structural racism’

The UN has highlighted “serious concerns of structural racial discrimination against non-nationals” in Qatar in a damning report. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 July 2020

UN report: Qatar’s migrant workers face ‘structural racism’

  • The report says there is a “de facto caste system based on national origin” in Qatar
  • Low-income workers continue to suffer severe discrimination and exploitation

LONDON: The United Nations has highlighted “serious concerns of structural racial discrimination against non-nationals” in Qatar in a damning report that will be presented to the UN human rights council.
The report says there is a “de facto caste system based on national origin” in Qatar, “according to which European, North American, Australian and Arab nationalities systematically enjoy greater human rights protections than south Asian and sub-Saharan African nationalities,” The Guardian reported.

Approximately 2 million migrant workers are employed in Qatar, the vast majority of them low-income laborers from South Asia and East and West Africa.
Although 18,500 are currently building World Cup 2022 stadiums, tens of thousands more are employed on projects linked to the event, including in the construction, hospitality and security sectors, the British newspaper reported.
The UN special rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume, who wrote the report, said Qatar “needs to do more in the light of the persistent complex challenges that undermine its compliance with its international obligations.”
Low-income workers continue to suffer severe discrimination and exploitation, the report said.
Violations of human rights include unsafe working conditions, racial profiling by police, and denial of access to some public spaces.
Many low-income workers are too afraid to seek justice for labor violations due to the “imbalances rooted in the kafala (sponsorship) system,” and workers who flee abusive employers are deemed to be “absconding,” the report said.
Workers are unable to change jobs without their employer’s permission under the sponsorship system.
Plans to abolish it, announced by Qatari authorities in October 2019, have failed to materialize.
Qatar’s government canceled a visit by the UN special rapporteur on slavery that was scheduled for January, soon after the preliminary findings of the report were published.
FIFA, the international football governing body that awarded the World Cup to Qatar in 2010, failed to acknowledge the racial discrimination described by Achiume in a statement to The Guardian.
FIFA said it is working with its partners toward “an inclusive tournament experience for all and a firm stance against discrimination of any kind.”


Yemen’s attorney general orders probe into Aden ammonium nitrate reports

Updated 26 min 19 sec ago

Yemen’s attorney general orders probe into Aden ammonium nitrate reports

  • On Friday, Yemeni lawmakers joined voices that demanded an immediate investigation into allegations of stranded containers of ammonium nitrate

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s attorney general on Friday ordered prosecutors in the southern port city of Aden to launch a quick probe into reports about tons of ammonium nitrate abandoned in the city’s seaport for several years.

In a letter addressed to Aden province’s chief appeal prosecutor, Ali Ahmed Al-Awash ordered an investigation to determine the veracity of media reports that 130 containers of ammonium nitrate, the same explosive materials that devastated Beirut last week, had been abandoned in the seaport for some time.

Yemeni journalist Fatehi Ben Lazerq, the editor of the Aden Al-Ghad news site and newspaper, published a story on Friday saying that roughly 4,900 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in 130 containers had been gathering dust at the port for the last three years.

The story prompted Yemen Gulf of Aden Ports Corporation, a government body that runs Aden seaport, to strongly deny storing ammonium nitrate at the site, saying the reporter was referring to old seized shipments of 140 containers of the organic compound urea, which, like ammonium nitrate, is used as an agricultural fertilizer.

The corporation claimed the material was not “explosive or radioactive”. Urea nitrate, however, has been used in making bombs across the world, including those detonated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

Ben Lazerq later fleshed out the story by publishing a letter from Brig. Abdul Salam Al-Ameri, the chief of Aden Free Zone police, from April 12, 2012 and addressed to the Saudi-led coalition leadership, complaining that the confiscated containers were due to expire and might “cause great harm” to the seaport infrastructures and workers.

“The ball is in their court now,” Ben Lazerq told Arab News, referring to the government officials, saying that he published the story to alert the public about the hazardous materials.

On Friday, Yemeni lawmakers joined voices that demanded an immediate investigation into allegations of stranded containers of ammonium nitrate. Ali Hussein Ashal, a member of the Parliament of Yemen, sent a letter to the government requesting clarifications about the presence of 130 40-foot containers of fertilizer abandoned in Aden seaport, and the reasons for importing the materials.

Mohammed Alawi Amzrabeh, the chairman of Yemen Gulf of Aden Ports Corporation, told Arab News they kept the containers of “safe” agricultural fertilizers in the port after the Saudi-led coalition rejected the shipment’s entry into the country. Despite the corporation’s assurance that the materials in question do not pose a risk, several government officials told Arab News that the Saudi-led coalition and the internationally recognized government had classified urea fertilizer as an explosive material that could be used by the Iran-backed Houthis for military purposes, banning Yemeni seaports from importing it without prior permission.

In February, Arab News reported that the Yemeni coast guard seized a ship carrying 20 tons of urea fertilizer of the country’s west coast. State media outlets have also reported multiple confiscations of urea shipments on land in Yemen, destined for the Houthi-controlled territories in the north of the country.