Millions of dollars worth bribe paid as ‘recruitment fees’ by migrant workers; Ethical obligation to speak up
If we anticipate an influx of 300,000 low-income workers in the next couple of years, then around $125 million would have been paid in bribes and kickback, according to Dr Ray Jureidini, an expert on migration studies.
Though the Qatar labour law doesn’t allow for any recruitment fees or charges to be paid by the employees, the primary sending countries do.
This is anywhere between 1 to 3 months of salary, as per the local laws there. However, in reality an unskilled worker would pay anything between $500 to $5000. This is raised by becoming indebted to loan sharks at average interest rates of 35% per annum, said Dr Jureidini, sharing the research findings, that led to the drawing up of Qatar Foundation’s Mandatory Standards for Migrant Workers Welfare.
The whole process, hence, goes against Islamic ethics, both financial and moral, he emphasised.
He recounted an exchange during a research trip to Bangladesh, when he was offered a ‘commission’ of $500 per head, for an ‘order of 30 labourers’, and $600 per head for an order of 100 workers. He calculates the aforementioned bribe of millions, based on these standard practices.
“It is the unskilled workers who take out loans to pay for these bribes. We cannot ignore this as a normal process of business. I consider it to be corruption.”
He quoted Migration Economist Manola Abella to support his argument: “What the recruiter gets is not a fee for the recruiter’s service but a ‘bribe’ for the job he or she offers.”
Dr Jureidini was speaking on the subject, Migrant Workers Recruitment: Challenges & Recommendations, at the Research Centre for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE),
He spoke about the different stages of exploitations that unskilled workers face, even before coming to receiving countries.
One of the key recommendations made by Dr Jureidini has already been made part of QF’s Mandatory standards: Reclassify worker recruitment fees as bribe and ensure employing companies pay all recruitment costs.
While commending QF for implementing these standards, he also said when it came to provisions on termination of contract, QF standards were as ambiguous as the Qatar Labour law.
Other issues that he raised include lack of uniformity of wages and exploitation of workers on arrival here, though the focus was on the debt trap most workers are caught in pre-departure. “Dignity is debt free,” he stressed.
Executive Director of CILE Dr Tariq Ramadan giving a commentary on the presentation said by marginalising and exploiting workers we were nurturing racism and phobia.
Unethical treatment of migrants is against Islamic and universal principles, he said, adding that the QF Mandatory Standards was a starting point to set it right.
“How come we speak about Islamic values and family when there are people here who see their wives once a year for 30 yrs.” (The minimum salary required to be able to bring your family here is QR10,000 in Qatar, as opposed to QR2,400 in Bahrain.)
Responding to a comment on why people keep quiet against unethical practices, Dr Ramadan insisted that we have to liberate ourselves from fear and must question from a human and religious point of view.
For more detailed analyses on migrant rights, check out the JustHere series by our columnist Aakash Jayaprakash.