Forced labour in Qatar

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Foreign migrant workers comprise more than 90% of Qatar's workforce. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) based this estimate on current mortality figures for Nepalese and Indian workers who form the bulk of Qatar's 1.2 million-strong migrant workforce, the majority of which are builders. However, according to the U.S. Department of State report on trafficking, these expatriate workers originating from Asia and parts of Africa are routinely subject to forced labour. The majority voluntarily migrate to Qatar as low-skilled workers or domestic servants but are subsequently subject to involuntary servitude.


The most common identified labour violations include obliging workers to accept worse contract terms to those under which initially recruited, beatings, withholding of payment, charging for benefits normally under the employer's responsibility, severe restrictions on freedom of movement (such as confiscating passports, travel documents or exit permits), arbitrary detention, legal action threats, mental and sexual assault. The Guardian newspaper published claims that at least 44 foreign workers have died due to poor work conditions in the past three months alone.


Many migrant workers arriving in Qatar have paid exorbitant fees to recruiters in their home countries. According to the 2009 Sponsorship Law, which has been widely described as akin to “modern-day slavery”, sponsors may restrict workers' movements and workers may be afraid to report abuses or claim their rights, which further their situation in forced labour. Migrant workers were in addition excluded from the 2004 Labour Law which has exposed them to greater labour exploitation and abuse, including sexual abuse.


Qatari laws against forced labour are rarely enforced, and labour laws in fact often result in the detention of victims in deportation centers, pending the completion of legal proceedings. The Government of Qatar does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking nor does it demonstrate evidence of significant efforts towards punishing traffickers and/or proactively identifying victims.


The ITUC stated the promised raids and checks by the government did nothing to terminate the Qatari system which strips migrant workers of their passports, renders them powerless to denounce their conditions, and traps them in the country.


In addition, government workers and non-Qatari nationals are not allowed to join unions. Migrant workers, who make up 85%-95% of the workforce, are also frequently mistreated with reports of deaths at work and in the camps where they live.