Abolish exit permits and reform the ‘kafala’ system, Amnesty tells Qatar
Over several months of research and interviews, Amnesty released its report titled ‘The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar’s construction sector ahead of the World Cup’, highlighting the exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar. It has made key recommendations that if implemented would go a long way in protecting the rights of the workers.
Here are some highlights of the recommendations, most of which is for the attention of Qatari authorities.
Fundamentally reform the sponsorship system.
- Remove the requirement in the Sponsorship Law for foreign nationals to obtain the permission of their current employer before moving jobs; and
- Remove the requirement in the Sponsorship Law for foreign nationals to obtain the permission of their current employer in order to leave the country.
Pending the fundamental reform of the sponsorship system, take the following steps to mitigate the abuses taking place within the current sponsorship system:
- Significantly simplify and speed up Ministry of Interior arrangements for workers whose sponsors are not assisting them to leave the country, so that workers in such situations can leave without delay;
- Stop the practice of preventing workers from leaving the country when fees are due to be paid because they do not have valid residence permits because of failures on the part of their employers;
- Allow workers to obtain health cards without requiring them to produce residence permits.
Reform the Labour Law
- Ensure that all workers – including but not only domestic workers – have their labour rights protected by law, equally; and
- Amend Article 116.1 so that workers in enterprises with less than 100 workers of any nationality employed are able to form or join a union;
- Adopt provisions that extend to all workers the right to bargain collectively, consistent
Enforcement of labour protections contained in the Labour Law and related decrees.
- Increase the monitoring of the arrival of workers in Qatar, so that when workers arrive their contract is checked by government officials in the presence of their employer and the worker, to confirm that the terms and conditions are what the worker has been promised prior to leaving his or her home country;
- Significantly increase the number of competent Labour inspectors as a matter of urgency, ensuring that either a significant proportion of Labour inspectors are able to speak the languages used by workers or are accompanied by competent translators;
- Consider making public the grades awarded to employers for compliance with labour standards, and the criteria upon which they are judged, providing independent oversight for this system;
Explore, with the business community, financial mechanisms which would ensure that payment of workers’ salaries is not adversely affected by delays in payment in the chain of contracting.
Consider establishing a cross-government, integrated unit to deal with companies in crisis and assist workers to rapidly collect unpaid wages and – if they wish – leave the country or change employers.
Amnesty has also made specific recommendations to companies employing migrant workers in Qatar, to large companies or organisations commissioning or managing construction projects, including the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, to home governments of companies operating in Qatar, and to FIFA.
They have also urged larger companies and organisations commissioning large projects to establish a mechanism to become aware of human rights abuse and labour law violations of sub-contractors, and to publicly disclose actions that are taken to prevent negative human rights impacts.