Are Qatar’s expatriate workers modern day slavery?

Qatar announced earlier this year that it is committed to reform its “Labour Laws”. Changes and the ensuing rumours to the laws have given rise to heated debates from the country’s main consultative Council to all concerned and interests-vested segments of the diverse populations, questioning in the social media, these reforms and their likelihood to materialise.

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Are Qatar’s expatriate workers modern day slavery?  Wondered the world of sports and all great and small.

Doha West Bay
Doha West Bay

New law to oversee sponsorship of 1.7 million expatriate workers.

Many are asking this question : are Qatar’s expatriate workers modern day slavery ?

Qatar News Agency informed this week that the Emir approved a new law ruling out the sponsorship system off the country’s labour laws.

Qatar announced earlier this year that it is committed to reform its “kafala” system.  Changes and the ensuing rumours about certain of these to the laws have given rise to heated debates within Qatar itself, this earlier this summer, from the country’s main consultative body, the Shura Council to all concerned and interests-vested segments of the diverse populations, questioning in the social media, these reforms and their likelihood to materialise.

Last week, however the state media (QNA) elaborating on the finally reached and newly issued law reforms of the sponsorship system, says: it now allows workers to switch jobs, without prior approval.

The new laws will be public in 2017 when laid in the ‘Official Gazette’, but are already drawing criticism because they are felt to fall short of expectations.  It is also felt unlikely that these so called changes will completely alter the predominating “kafala” culture in the work environment.

As justification, QNA notes that the said approved reforms are concerned with only matters of regulations entry and exit of expatriates and their residency in the country.

According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), these amendments to labour laws appear to be somehow adding a new layer of repression for expatriate workers and that these do not abolish exit permits.

As a matter of fact, all expatriate workers do not still have all that ‘modern days’ workers take for granted such as the right to join a union.  More importantly, the country’s large domestic workers population seem to be left out as it appears, it would remain wholly excluded from the newly enacted labour law.

“The tragedy of 1.7million migrant workers trapped in Qatar defines modern day slavery and the denial of trade union rights for workers in the Gulf states.  Qatar continues not only to deny workers their rights, but to obscure and ignore the deaths of migrant workers building the 2022 World Cup infrastructure,” a ITUC’s spokesperson said, adding : “International companies doing business in Qatar can no longer be lured by Qatar’s promises of reform.  The threat to the reputation of international companies using an enslaved migrant workforce in Qatar has increased with the Governments sham reforms.”

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