Crying wolf: Qatar blames foreign recruitment agencies for labor abuse
World Cup 2022 host Qatar, under international criticism over working conditions for migrant workers, said recruitment agencies in Asia were the main party to blame for any abuse.
A report commissioned by the Qatar Foundation chaired by the ruling emir’s mother charged that the rights of migrants, mainly Asians, are flouted in their home countries from the moment they sign up for work.
“Critics of human and labor rights violations most often shift the blame to Qatar in a rather generic manner,” said the report focused on workers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
“Far less attention has been given to the violations by the migrants’ own nationals in their countries of origin, in addition to those who are complicit in Qatar,” it said.
Energy-rich Qatar has come under international pressure to clamp down on violations of the rights of migrant workers, specially those building World Cup infrastructure.
The report insisted that this criticism underscores the need to determine the level of abuse committed at the recruitment stage, and introduce legislation in order to stamp it out.
“It is necessary to ascertain to what extent trafficking, debt bondage and forced labor, that largely result from recruitment processes ... could be addressed and leveraged by the Qatari authorities,” it said.
The Qatar Foundation is a non-profit organization promoting education, science, and community development. It is chaired by Sheikha Moza bint Nasser al-Masnad – the mother of Qatar’s emir.
The report called for “greater regulation of recruitment and placement agencies in origin and destination countries, respectively” and for more cooperation between these governments. “Proper legislation is needed to monitor the work of recruitment agencies in Qatar and in the origin countries,” it said.
The report recommended fees paid by would-be migrant workers to recruitment agencies be “banned,” describing them as a form of “bribe” piling financial pressure on the job seeker. Any fee should instead be paid by the company hiring the worker.
The report said workers are often forced to take out loans to foot the bill of recruitment agencies and secure a job in the construction and service industries in Qatar, and as a result rake up debts.
“The phenomenon of debt bondage is in large part the reason why migrant workers in Qatar are insecure and vulnerable to exploitation,” the report said.
It also called on Qatar to ensure that workers are paid their wages on time in line with local law and that the employers pay the salaries directly into the workers’ bank accounts.
“Contracts should be standardized with detailed termination provisions, signed prior to departure and checked on arrival,” it said.
Doha has repeatedly rejected charges that construction workers are being mistreated and has announced a series of measures to improve their conditions.
In May, Qatar announced it will abolish its controversial “sponsorship” system which leaves foreign workers at the mercy of employers.
The International Trade Union Confederation warned in June that as many as 4,000 migrant workers could die in construction site accidents by the time the 2022 tournament kicks off.