October 28, 2020

Act to support Qatar’s plan to protect workers!


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Miriam Karmali,

Big news. The ILO recently announced that  plans to abolish the kafala system in the country, signalling an end to an employment practice notorious for leaving migrant workers vulnerable to forced labor. Qatar is the first country in the Gulf region to make this commitment and we are eager to see it realized  – can you add your name to show your support for an end to forced labor in Qatar?

The ILO announced reforms including establishing a minimum wage, regulations to facilitate a worker’s transfer to a new employer, and a draft law to abolish exit visas. These reforms now have to pass through the country’s advisory council and be approved by the emir which is expected to happen in January.

The kafala system ties a migrant worker’s immigration status to their employer, meaning that migrant workers are unable to change jobs or leave the country without their employer’s permission.

Similar sponsorship systems exist in many countries, particularly but not only, in the Gulf region. When workers are vulnerable, this system helps employers exert control over employees and exploit them for their labor. Low-paid migrant workers are often vulnerable due to discrimination, language barriers, limited knowledge of their rights in their host country and being unable to access grievance mechanisms when they are being abused.

This system has therefore contributed to an environment where slavery can thrive – as a result, migrant workers in Qatar have alleged conditions of forced labor, having their passports and wages withheld, and being forced to live in squalid conditions.[1] 

One worker at a maintenance company was threatened with deportation if he refused to sign a contract significantly reducing his agreed wages. He said “The sponsor blamed it on the agent. He said to me ‘sign it or go back home’”.[2]

Qatar has made progress[3] since 2018 to grant migrant workers more freedom, but the announcement to fully abolish the kafala system is unique.  Sponsorship systems tying migrant workers’ status to their employer continue to facilitate the exploitation of workers around the world.

Qatar’s announcement could help empower and better protect migrant workers from forced labor if passed into law. We look forward to more countries following their lead.

The Guardian reports:[4]

“Fifa’s decision to locate the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has hugely increased scrutiny, and the Qatar government ultimately responded by signing a formal cooperation with the ILO promising to implement improvements.

Describing the abolition of exit permits and “no-objection certificates” for workers moving jobs as marking “the end of kafala,” the ILO said: “These steps will greatly support the rights of migrant workers, while contributing to a more efficient and productive economy.”

The level of the minimum wage, a key reform given the low pay for migrant workers in Qatar, the world’s richest per-capita country, will be set later this year, the ILO said, and not discriminate between nationalities. Last year the Guardian reported that men working on World Cup stadium construction sites far from their families overseas, and living in “labour camps”, were being paid £40 per week in Qatar.”

Add your name to the campaign today to show your support for an end to forced labor in Qatar.

[1] https://www.freedomunited.org/news/migrant-workers-in-qatar-defy-ban-strike-for-labor-rights/
[2] https://www.freedomunited.org/news/migrant-workers-in-qatar-defy-ban-strike-for-labor-rights/
[3] https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_638754/lang–en/index.htm
[4] https://www.freedomunited.org/news/qatar-to-abolish-kafala-system-in-january-before-2022-world-cup/

To add your name go to: https://www.freedomunited.org/advocate/qatar-kafala/?trk_msg=MNI3VRV9QMAK94CI0DP0AHHMEG&trk_contact=037FSGUJ91I19DOFIHRSCHO86K&trk_sid=P745IAJJSNERTUDQAJ7R6USC34&utm_source=Listrak&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Add+your+name&utm_campaign=FU-EN-7NOV-2019-QATAR-NAT-Active&utm_content=FU-EN-7NOV-2019-QATAR-NAT-Active

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