Salman Siddiqui/Staff Reporter
Amnesty International (AI) has called for a fundamental reform in Qatar’s sponsorship system, including the removal of requirement in the sponsorship law for foreign nationals to obtain the permission of their current employer before moving jobs as well as permission of the employer to leave the country.
These are among the 10 key recommendations of the global human rights watchdog to the Qatari authorities in its report, “The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar’s Construction Sector Ahead of the World Cup”, which was launched yesterday in Doha.
Amnesty International also suggested steps to take while the fundamental reform of the sponsorship system took place, including increasing awareness among migrant workers of the Ministry of Interior’s mechanism allowing workers to move sponsors in the event of abuse.
Workers should also be able to obtain health cards without requiring them to produce residence permits, it said.
Additionally, it demanded significant reform in the country’s labour law, asking it specifically to repeal or amend Articles 3, 116.4, 116.1, 116.3 and 120.
It asked the Qatari authorities to significantly improve the enforcement of labour protection contained in the labour law and related decrees, such as ensuring that a significant proportion of labour inspectors are able to speak the languages used by workers or are accompanied by competent translators.
Interestingly, it also asked to explore financial mechanisms to ensure that payment of workers’ salaries was not adversely affected by delays in payment in the chain of contracting. AI asked for considering establishing a cross-government, integrated unit to deal with companies in crisis and assist workers to rapidly collect unpaid wages and, if they wish, leave the country or change employers.
The organisation stressed the need to improve systems to deliver justice to migrant workers, especially the labour complaints system, through steps such as providing all relevant information on the Ministry of Labour’s website in English and a range of relevant languages for the migrant workforce as well as Arabic.
The report raised concerns over racial discrimination and sought the review of Law No. 10 of 2010 and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Urban Planning Decree 83 of 2011 to ensure that they were not in violation of Qatar’s obligations under
the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
It also asked the state to ratify a number of international instruments and incorporate their provisions into domestic law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
AI also called on the governments of migrant workers’ countries of origin to strengthen and enforce regulation of recruitment companies and agencies and laws to protect workers from predatory recruiters, ensuring that recruitment agencies that breach regulations face appropriate penalties.
It also demanded that companies employing migrant workers in Qatar publicly commit to respecting human rights and put in place adequate systems to prevent human rights abuses as a consequence of their operations.
AI further asked large companies or organisations commissioning or managing construction projects, including the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, to take into account the fact that they may be involved with adverse human rights impacts as a result of their relationship with other parties through the chain of contracting and asked them to ensure that efforts to address human rights abuse go beyond simply including labour rights in contracts with subcontractors.
The AI recommendation list also includes a note to FIFA, calling the football body to send a strong public message to the Qatari authorities and the construction sector that human rights must be respected in all World Cup-related construction projects, including not only stadiums and training facilities being managed by the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, but also increased hotel capacity as well as key transport and other infrastructure that will support the staging of the World Cup.