Qatari firms systematically exploiting workers: Report

Qatari firms systematically exploiting workers: Report
Workers walk towards the construction site of the stadium in Lusail, which is being built for the upcoming 2022 Fifa World Cup, Doha, Qatar, December 20, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 November 2020

Qatari firms systematically exploiting workers: Report

Qatari firms systematically exploiting workers: Report
  • Thousands of workers have been dismissed without notice, put on lower wages or unpaid leave, denied outstanding and end-of-service payments, or forced to pay for flights home
  • Around 2 million migrant workers — the majority hailing from south Asia — work in Qatar, many on 2022 FIFA World Cup construction sites

LONDON: Qatari companies have failed to pay “hundreds of millions of dollars” in wages and benefits to low-paid workers amid the coronavirus pandemic, new research by human rights group Equidem has revealed.

In a report, Equidem says thousands of workers have been dismissed without notice, put on lower wages or unpaid leave, denied outstanding and end-of-service payments, or forced to pay for flights home.

The findings constitute “wage theft” on an unprecedented scale, according to Equidem, leaving workers destitute, short of food and unable to send money home during the pandemic despite Qatar being one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

A cleaner from Bangladesh, who said he had not received a wage for four months, said: “I came here to work for my family, not to be a beggar living on my own.”

The UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre found that unpaid or delayed wages were reported by workers in 87 percent of alleged labor-abuse cases, which have affected almost 12,000 workers since 2016.

Around 2 million migrant workers — the majority hailing from south Asia — work in Qatar, many on 2022 FIFA World Cup construction sites.

Despite the findings, Equidem praised some Qatari coronavirus-related measures. In March, the government made it compulsory for companies to pay workers in quarantine or government-imposed isolation and set up a loan scheme to subsidize the payments.

But the report warns of a “widespread failure to comply” with the ruling and other regulations.

The Qatari government later allowed companies that had stopped operating due to pandemic restrictions to put workers on unpaid leave or terminate their contracts as long as they followed the country’s labor law, which includes providing a notice period and paying outstanding benefits.

The report highlights a number of companies that exploited or failed to follow this directive. Almost 2,000 workers employed by one construction company were “laid off on the spot,” workers have claimed. Many have not received their outstanding salary or end-of-service settlement.

The report said: “Many migrant workers are in an extremely vulnerable position with no real ability to assert their rights or seek remedy for violations.”

Mustafa Qadri, director of Equidem, said the lack of a lawful right to organize or join a trade union “has prevented workers from having a seat at the table with the government and employers to negotiate an equitable share of funds,”

In a statement, Qatar said its pandemic response “has been driven by the highest international standards of public health policy and the protection of human rights.”

It added: “Employers failing to pay their staff on time or withholding end of service payments have faced disciplinary action, including heavy fines and bans that prevent them from operating.”


Israeli police prevent Dome of the Rock repairs

Israeli police prevent Dome of the Rock repairs
This picture shows the Dome of the Rock at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Jerusalem's Old City on July 27, 2018, after the site was reopened. (AFP)
Updated 25 January 2021

Israeli police prevent Dome of the Rock repairs

Israeli police prevent Dome of the Rock repairs
  • Council set to denounce action that is ‘violation of understandings’

AMMAN: Israeli police have stopped workers from the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf from renovating the Dome of the Rock for two consecutive days, raising tensions in the old city.

Azzam Khatib, director of the Jordanian Waqf department in Jerusalem, informed Jordan’s Ambassador in Tel Aviv Ghassan Majali and Minister of Waqf in Amman Mohammed Khalaileh of the news.

Israeli officials claim the decision was made after an individual tried to renovate the ceiling of the Bab Al-Rahmeh mosque, which Israel has demanded Muslims to vacate, without reason.

The Jerusalem Waqf Council is expected to issue a strong statement denouncing the Israeli action, calling it a violation of understandings.

Bassam Hallaq, the Waqf engineer in charge of the renovation, said that Israeli police stopped work on the gold-plated Dome of the Rock on Saturday and Sunday, and prevented urgent electric work, too.

Israel insists that any renovation or repair must be pre-approved. The renovation is not structural.

Arab News has learned that the Israeli actions on Saturday and Sunday followed the efforts of an unknown Palestinian whose face was covered, who climbed the roof of the Bab Al-Rahmeh mosque in order to apply cement to stop leaks.

Israel has forbidden any repair work on the mosque.

Hallaq said that all repair work in the entire Al-Aqsa compound has also been suspended by Israel.

The mosque’s engineer insists that the Waqf has no cement materials inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and that Friday was a holiday when staff did not work.

Sheikh Omar Kisswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, told reporters that repairs to the entire 144 dunum Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa mosque compound were the right of the Islamic Waqf and that the Israeli police have no right to interfere in their work.

A spokesman for the Israeli police told Arab News that the “subject isn’t under the responsibility of the Israeli police.”