Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad discusses the situation of workers in 2020
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad discusses the situation of workers in 2020

The Qatari government announced this morning new decisions that will ensure a decent life for two million expatriates in Qatar.

The Qatari government has also announced that it is currently thinking that it will implement the abusive sponsorship system for all Qatari workers through a new law.

Qatar will provide jobs for more than two million people.One of the priorities of the State is to ensure a decent life for expatriate workers, and the government's commitment to reform labor laws and practices to achieve a system that is appropriate to the needs of workers and employers. In the same context, the Department of Public Hygiene in the Ministry of Municipality and Environment has launched new hygiene carts recently provided with appropriate designs and high technical specifications, within the framework of development programs and programs for the public services sector in the Ministry of Municipality and Environment in accordance with the strategy plan Sustainable Ministry (2018 - 2022).

Safar Al Shafi, Assistant Undersecretary for Public Services Affairs, affirmed that the provision of new vehicles equipped with sun umbrellas and rain comes in implementation of the policy of the Ministry of Municipality and Environment and its plans to maintain the safety of workers and provide the appropriate environment for them during the performance of their work. It always works to develop its services because it is directly related to human health, environmental safety and the beauty of the general view of all the different regions of the country.

He stressed that Qatar occupies an advanced position among the countries of the region in terms of hygiene services, and that the provision of such carriages is a qualitative leap in the public and unique services, characterized by umbrellas that will preserve the safety of workers and protect them from the sun and weather conditions such as rain, etc. It has to be light weight to be easy to navigate between areas, in addition to the yellow color is the logo of hygiene.

Al Shafi pointed out that one of the ministry's priorities is to preserve the safety of workers and provide tools and means of work commensurate with the nature of their work and maintain their safety, hence the idea of ​​designing and implementing lightweight hand carts with umbrellas and sunscreen.

Developing services in Qatar serves expats

Moqbel Al Shammari, Director of General Cleaning Department, said that the Department, as concerned with providing hygiene services to all regions in the country, is always seeking to develop its services to achieve the highest levels of service in terms of efficiency and quality. This, in itself, is an achievement for management and the private sector to provide local business requirements and tools. He explained that these vehicles were distributed to all areas as of yesterday, to be used in commercial streets and in residential areas and neighborhoods, and these new vehicles will have a large and positive role in cleaning the areas as quickly as possible and the collection of personal waste resulting from some of the wrong behavior of the public.

Important reforms by the Qatari government for expatriates through new laws

According to an official report, Qatar has implemented several important reforms, notably five large-scale reforms to strengthen labor laws and increase the protection of migrant workers. Among the most prominent of these reforms «the decision to cancel exit visas for residents in the country, set a temporary minimum wage, announced the establishment of 20 visa centers for Qatar in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tunisia, which will accelerate the recruitment process and ensure that workers are not exploited in their home country, The establishment of a fund to support and insure workers ensures their welfare and rights as well as a healthy and safe working environment. Several human rights organizations and the United Nations have recognized Qatar's reforms, making it a leader in the Gulf region on labor market reforms. Unlike other reforms in the region, the reforms undertaken by the State of Qatar are effective and long-term.

In order to facilitate and facilitate the complaints system for migrant workers, the State has worked to provide and increase the means available for reporting complaints against employers. A 24/7 hotline has been set up so that workers can communicate through complaints, and the state has provided 11 self-service complaint machines (operating in 11 languages) in the Labor Relations Department of the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs located in 11 regions of the country. Diameter. Through these agencies, the worker can file a complaint against the employer without revealing his name.

At the level of citizens, a report of the Planning Authority on the sustainable development of the State of Qatar 2018 reveals that the State has been able to achieve the goal of achieving full and productive employment and providing decent work opportunities for all members of society, including youth and women, where unemployment rates in Qatar are the lowest in the world. The State has been able to end the phenomenon of child labor, as it does not exist in the Qatari labor market. The State has also worked to protect workers' rights and provide them with a safe working environment. Provides protection for workers' wages Through the Wages Protection Act.

Labor welfare is important for the Qatari government

International organizations and trade unions praised the role of the Qatari government to provide the best care and welfare for migrant workers, stressing that laws, legislations and decisions taken by the State of Qatar during the past period have provided the migrant worker with unprecedented legal and social protection across the entire region. Qatar is a model at the level of the region in dealing with outstanding employment in general and expatriate in particular and there are many resolutions and legislation that deserve praise and praise, for example The Labor Dispute Settlement Committees emphasize the State of Qatar's keenness to provide legal protection and impartial justice to the migrant worker.

Shehan said in a press statement that the migrant worker gets his full rights in Qatar to the extent that we found the number of workers filing complaints so little, which raised our satisfaction because the lack of complaints means that the workers live in a positive atmosphere, stressing that the complaint and handling mechanism is excellent and distinctive and confirms the justice of the state Qatar in dealing with the file of expatriate workers and we can easily confirm that it has become a role model in this context and we say to Qatar we are with you and stand next to you and congratulate you on achieving all those achievements.

Dispute resolution in Qatar gives expatriates full rights

Qatar has set up labor dispute resolution committees to provide a fair and fast platform for workers and employers.

In a step to solve the problems between the worker and his employer at the employer's premises before reaching the courts or dispute resolution committees, instead of reaching the judiciary and taking a long time to reach a solution, Qatar established the joint labor committees, which are formed by workers' elections in each company separately. International organizations confirmed that the decision to form joint labor committees affirms Qatar's clear commitment to all its commitments and its keenness to provide all aspects of welfare and welfare for the migrant worker.

Election of workers' committees means the presence of a representative of the worker who can present what the worker wishes to present to the management. All this is in favor of the production process, in addition to that the worker has a voice up to the management to express the opinion of the workers in the company.

Improved welfare The demand of expatriates and the role of the Qatari government

Recently, the National Human Rights Committee and the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation and exchange of experiences in relation to expatriate labor affairs and improving their welfare in Qatar.

The MoU came in recognition of the importance of cooperation between the two parties, in order to contribute to spreading and promoting a culture of human rights, and the protection of these rights for their common roles and tasks, at the legal, supervisory, awareness and service levels related to human rights and the reality of the actual partnership between the two parties. .

The memorandum affirmed the cooperation of the two parties in a manner consistent with the general objectives, strategy of work and competencies of each in the field of public awareness of the principles and standards of human rights, and cooperation aspects of knowledge production to achieve legislative harmonization with international human rights standards to achieve openness to regional and international bodies and cooperation in the field of conferences And the joint contribution to national, regional and international human rights events, as well as aspects of the human rights situation in areas relevant to the work of both sides.

Qatar to abolish abusive sponsorship system

We will now address the Qatari government's plan to abolish the abusive sponsorship system.

In special statements today, the Qatari government unveiled a series of reforms that would put an end to the kafala system, which is blamed for perpetuating abusive and exploitative labor practices. The question is whether these measures are just lip service or real progress, a question raised in other parts of the Middle East where the kafala system prevails.

Sponsorship is the system by which migrant workers are granted work visas in a number of Gulf countries, including Qatar, which links workers to their employer sponsors. Workers must obtain permission from their employers to leave or change jobs; a system that reflects abusive practices Exploitation such as withholding wages or confiscating passports.

The United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) announced the abolition of bail in Qatar, which was confirmed by Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani, along with a number of other promised reforms.

After Qatar won the chance to host the 2020 World Cup, labor practices in the country are under scrutiny, prompting the Arab state to work closely with the ILO for reform. Along with the abolition of the sponsorship system, a non-discriminatory minimum wage, the first of its kind in the Middle East, has also been introduced.

For the first time, Qatar announced the elimination of the need for exit permits for non-domestic migrant workers last year, in addition to the requirement of obtaining a NOC (workers had to obtain employer's permission before changing jobs) as long as they had completed their contract or served five years if they There was no fixed term for the contract.

"We have long demanded an end to the abusive sponsorship system in Qatar, and it will be an important step if these measures finally allow workers to return home or change jobs without restrictions," said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International's deputy director of the Global Issues Program. the details."

“Often, workers continued to face exploitation and abuse, despite reforms aimed at protecting them. We hope this time will be different, and that Qatar will indeed be able to transform its labor laws into laws that fully respect the rights of foreign workers. ”This should also mean stricter enforcement of labor laws and accountability for abusive employers.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Qatari ruling cabinet unanimously approved the latest reforms.The next steps are to submit them to the advisory council and obtain formal approval from Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, which is expected by January 2020.

Around 2 million migrants, mostly from the Indian subcontinent, work in Qatar as low-paid workers in industries ranging from construction to domestic service.

An Amnesty International report last September revealed the precarious conditions many of these workers face and their suffering to obtain justice despite attempts to reform.

While the kafala system makes a lot of money from employment agencies, long working hours, low salaries and substandard living conditions stifle workers' ability to lift themselves out of exploitation through restrictions imposed by the system. Moreover, there was no legal mechanism to hold abusive employers accountable.

Previous reforms attempted to correct this path.In March 2018, a new system was introduced to establish labor dispute settlement committees to replace formerly ineffective labor courts, under which a judgment would be issued within six weeks of filing a complaint so that remedies, such as payment of overdue wages, could be enforced. , More quickly. These improvements have worked for some but not for all, and Amnesty International's report has highlighted hundreds of cases that continue to seek justice.

For example, Nepalese worker Deepak won the case through the new commissions but has yet to receive compensation, a year after the verdict was in his favor.

Another case concerns Kenyan worker Dalia, who filed a complaint against the notorious United Clearing Company, which only recovered half of her dues after a long legal battle, which she told researchers she had to accept the offer because “we need money to buy our new jobs,” referring to fees. High employment paid by workers.

Language barriers, travel costs and lack of legal representation within possibilities also affect effective legal asylum. If companies are not involved in legal proceedings, there are few measures available to punish them, and most embassies, according to Amnesty International, do not support workers who pursue claims after they return home. However, originally, there are many cases that committees must deal with in the absence of sufficient judges.

Migrants' Rights, a defense organization focused on the GCC, says that while waiting for details of the sponsorship system, many questions arose.

Under the new laws, if a worker moves to a new employer during the trial period, the new employer must bear the initial recruitment fees. Effectively, however, the question is whether these recruitment fees will be disclosed transparently, and the organization warns that the practice of illegal visa trade can be carried here by charging the worker.

Further details on the non-discrimination or minimum wage, the duration of the trial period and what concrete steps will be taken to enable workers to renew their residence permits, and avoid falling into an irregular situation to make the worker liable for fines if the visa expires .

In an interview with Funk, a spokesperson for the organization said, “Migrant working conditions go beyond the kafala system,” and improvements are needed in the wage protection system, so that workers cannot be paid for months.

"The new reforms appear to include domestic workers, but they are still not covered by the labor law, while the domestic workers law does not provide similar protection and is not well enforced."

While Qatar and the ILO are working on better regulations, the spokeswoman advised against describing the new declaration as a step forward.

“We need to assess how these reforms are actually being implemented and how they ultimately affect migrant workers,” she said, noting the gap between what is being announced and what workers are already facing and that the country needs to do more to comply with international law.

The sponsorship system is still in place in many other Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan and Lebanon. According to a fact sheet issued by Migrant Rights, many of these countries do not prohibit recruitment fees or confiscation of passports.

Indeed, some of these countries have promised to abolish the system, including Saudi Arabia, which announced in May that it would suspend sponsorship. However, the Kingdom of Bahrain was the first country to announce its intention to abolish the regime since 2009.

However, for Bahrain, the complete abolition of the system has been lengthy since the enactment of the Employment Change Act in 2009, allowing migrant workers to move to other employers without their sponsor's permission if their contract provides for a notification period of not more than three months. Workers can legally stay in the country for one month to find work. However, this was undermined in 2011 by Law No. 15 requiring workers to stay with their employers for one year before changing jobs, so the sponsorship system prevails.

In 2016, Bahrain announced a new permit called the Flexible Permit which allows a worker to be his own sponsor, but this applies only to workers whose visas have expired, thus excluding many vulnerable workers.

As for Saudi Arabia, according to Migrants Rights, no meaningful steps have been taken so far. Although there are self-sponsorship options in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia today, these options are only available to high-income investors and, according to the organization, Saudi Arabia will be the last Gulf country to request an exit visa if Qatar passes the proposed reforms. .

“Throughout the region, we see a lot of tampering with labor and immigration laws, some of which were very important, but there has been no real effort to reform the system as a whole,” the spokeswoman said.