Foreign Workers Abused In Qatar, Report Says | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Foreign Workers Abused In Qatar, Report Says

Our friends over at the Two-Way recently told you about disturbing allegations against Qatar for its handling of migrant workers building the country's infrastructure for the 2022 soccer World Cup. Those revelations were first reported in The Guardian.

This week we have more allegations, this time from Amnesty International.

"The abuses against migrant workers in the construction sector in Qatar are grim," the human rights group says.

More than 1 million foreigners work in Qatar, and they make up 94 percent of the country's workforce, Amnesty says.

The group says workers who arrive in Qatar are often paid less than what they were promised — that's when they get paid at all. Some workers often have their passports confiscated so they can't leave; others are made to work under extreme conditions and are "treated like cattle."

Reuters reports:

"Earlier this month a U.N. official called on Qatar to abolish the kafala, or sponsorship system, used by many Gulf Arab states, under which employees cannot change jobs or leave the country without the permission of their sponsors.

"Many sponsors, often labour supply firms or wealthy Qataris who provide workers to businesses for profit, confiscate the passports of guest workers for the duration of their contracts."

Qatar, as we've reported previously, has emerged in recent years as a new power in the Middle East. It owns Al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language broadcaster whose programs can be seen around the world. The World Cup would be the crowning glory for the tiny emirate. Some estimates suggest that $220 billion is being spent to expand the country's infrastructure ahead of the World Cup. Workers for that effort come mainly from South Asia.

Here's more from The Associated Press:

"Amnesty's study comes a week after FIFA President Sepp Blatter visited the emir of Qatar to share FIFA's concern about working conditions after newspaper investigations highlighted alleged human rights abuses and deaths in the extreme heat.

"There have been long-standing concerns about the lack of safeguards for the mainly South Asian migrant laborers in Qatar and across the Gulf, including low-grade housing and employers withholding the worker passports."

In response, a Qatari Foreign Ministry official told the Qatar News Agency that the country was "doing its utmost" to protect human rights. Qatar's government has hired the global law firm DLA Piper to look at issues surrounding the construction sector, the news agency said.

FIFA, soccer's governing body, said it upholds "respect for human rights." But FIFA chief Blatter added:

"The workers' rights will be the responsibility for Qatar and the companies — many of them European companies — who work there. It is not FIFA's primary responsibility but we cannot turn a blind eye. Yet it is not a direct intervention from FIFA that can change things."

Amnesty International said it was concerned by FIFA's approach.

Amnesty's report comes amid criticism of the way foreign workers are treated in other Arab countries.

Saudi authorities have cracked down on workers illegally in the country, an effort that led to riots last week. Human Rights Watch has previously said migrant workers "suffer multiple abuses and labor exploitation, sometimes amounting to slavery-like conditions" in the country.

Widespread abuse is also alleged in the United Arab Emirates, where nearly 90 percent of all residents are foreigners.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Art Beat With Lauren Landau, May 27, 2015

Life is hard, confusing, funny and devastating. You can see two plays that focus on characters who are just trying to figure things out.

NPR

How Dorothea Lange Taught Us To See Hunger And Humanity

Perhaps no one did more to show us the human toll of the Great Depression than Lange, who was born on this day in 1895. Her photos of farm workers and others have become iconic of the era.
NPR

Scott Walker Says Ultrasounds Are 'Just A Cool Thing'

Speaking about a law that requires an ultrasound before an abortion, Gov. Scott Walker said he meets people all the time who are excited to show him ultrasounds. "It's just a cool thing out there."
NPR

How Will The Next President Protect Our Digital Lives?

For the first time in a White House race, the candidates will need a game plan for cyber policy for Day 1 in the Oval Office and will have some tough choices to make.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.