African migrants in Qatar, victims of recruitment fraud and racial prejudice
There’s a new wave of migration from Africa to Qatar and these migrants are victims of both unethical recruitment practices in their home countries and of racial prejudice here, reports Abu Taqiudin.
Among the many people who wave down Kwabena’s taxi in Doha every day, are those that would look at him through the window and refuse to enter, asking him to go away instead.
Kwabena 33, originally from Ghana has been driving the cab for the last eight months and learnt from firsthand experience that not all people on the streets felt comfortable sitting next to a black African or riding in his cab.
“On three occasions, some women waved my taxi and when I stopped to take them, they looked through the window and asked me to go away,” he said. “They would then wave another taxi and I will observe them being taken by a cab driver from an Asian country.”
There has been a flow of Africans to Doha recently to work in different fields. Today Africans dominate most of the security jobs in Doha and a sizeable number can be seen in other jobs like taxi drivers, nurses, maids, waiters and waitresses, engineers, cleaners among others.
To most Africans that have made it to Doha, the country is a dream come true as they are paid wages much higher than they would get in their home countries doing the same jobs. To others, Doha has offered an opportunity to employment that they never had and were happy to be supporting their families back home.
Shanice, 30, from Uganda, works as an aircraft cleaner at Doha International airport is earning enough to keep her two young children in school back in Uganda.
“Our whole life here is about work and sleep. We forego all the life’s ‘luxuries’ to help our families get a better life and I don’t want my children also to leave home and go to work abroad like me,” she said.
In November last year, JustHere wrote about taxi drivers recruited from Kenya whose contracts were violated on arrival in Qatar.
Suffering the ‘free visa’ myth; bridging the knowledge gap
But not all Africans in Doha manage to find jobs, a good number of them especially those who came on what is popularly known as “Free Visa” without a job attached to it, roam the streets for months to find a job. These people have sold their property back home to raise the fees for a “Free Visa” with false promises of just landing in Doha and be spoilt for choices for a specific job. Some in desperation have resorted to unacceptable practices and the result has been a bad name for all Africans.
“The problem is many African still come to Doha on their own, get jobs privately and never report themselves even to their embassies.”
Africans in Doha also have community Associations that help keep them together, organise annual parties and also help mobilise emergency help for other members like in cases of repatriation bodies or buying air tickets to members who have lost jobs or simply want to go home. Almost every African nationality has its own community association.
Besides the community associations, the diplomatic missions like embassies and consuls also bring Africans together.
Emmanuel Larmeh the vice consul of the Embassy of Liberia said there were less than 100 Liberians living and working in Qatar as most of his countrymen were putting much emphasis on going to the USA. But the trend was however changing as more Liberians learn of the opportunities GCC countries like Qatar do offer. He said there was a growing need for Liberians to come to Qatar but the embassy was still studying ways with recruitment companies of how these opportunities would well be fulfilled with no abuses.
Larmeh’s advice to Africans coming to work in Doha is to go through the right channels of recruitment and have their contracts reviewed by their embassies or consulates in Qatar.
“It’s easier if there is a breach of the contract like nonpayment or any kind of abuse, the embassy would intervene quickly if they had a copy of the contract already,” he said. “The problem is many African still come to Doha on their own, get jobs privately and never report themselves even to their embassies.”
One of the organisations that is helping African migrants coming to Doha and other GCC countries is Islamic Committee of the International Crescent (ICIC) an organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).
Dr Mohammed El Asbali the Executive Director of ICIC said their role is mainly to create awareness to bridge the knowledge gap about the conditions and nature of work in the receiving GCC countries. The organisation has established national societies in African countries like Somalia, Ethiopia, Benin, Mali, Sudan and Nigeria to conduct awareness media programs for about a year that would include radio and TV programmes on migration. Seminars and workshops would also be conducted to prospective migrants to make them aware of the situations in the GCC countries they intended to move.
But to some Africans like Mohammed, 30, who is still looking for a job in Doha it’s the cost of coming to Doha that bothers them. Mohammed studied and practiced law in Kenya before coming to Doha. He avoided coming through recruitment agents because all the jobs they could offer were semi-skilled. He had to spend large sums of money just to arrive on his own in Doha.
He toted up over $4500 (about QR16,500); the airlines that was to process his one month visa wanted a deposit of $1500 (QR5500), one month visa of $120 (QR440), air ticket of $1000 (QR3650) and hotel accommodation of about $500 (QR1820). He was also advised by the airlines officer to carry $1300 (QR4750) on him, as he might be asked for proof of funds at immigration.
Mohammed still has not found a job, and his debt is on the rise.