By Salman Siddiqui/Staff Reporter
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has commended local authorities for allowing them to conduct an independent survey of working conditions in Qatar but reiterated their call for abolition of the sponsorship system.
The four-day visit of the 11-member ITUC delegation came on the eve of the third anniversary of Qatar winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup.
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary ITUC, said:“Absolutely, we can say that the authorities did not hinder our movements. I commend them for it.”
About her current visit to Qatar, she said that before coming to the country, she had made it public that the ITUC team would be here and would meet important stakeholders, including the workers, National Human Rights Committee and government officials.
She also commended the Qatari authorities for allowing Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch apart from the ITUC to come into the country and investigate cases of alleged abuse.
Burrow said that the ITUC wanted to genuinely help the Qatari government and local authorities. “I’ve constantly offered to work with the authorities. I still put that offer on the table. I’ve told the [National] Human Rights Committee this morning and will tell the [labour] minister later the same thing: We have the solutions. We want Qatar to succeed.”
The ITUC delegates spoke to the media yesterday at the Sheraton park on the Corniche, where they thanked the authorities for allowing them free access but called upon them to amend the sponsorship law.
“What I can’t commend them about is that they have refused to make the decision to change. All of our institutions, the international governments, the International Labour Organisations, we’ve all offered to help the government, but they have to make a decision.”
She said that international pressure was growing and it won’t end. “Governments, human rights organisations and FIFA have all called for an end to the Kafala (sponsorship) system,” she added.
During their stay in Qatar, the ITUC delegation held hearings with both professional workers and unskilled expatriate labourers. They visited labour camps and deportation centres.
According to her, some of the workers told her stories where they were refused wages or sponsors refused to sign their exit permit.
The delegation will report back to governments in Australia, Austria, Denmark and the UK as well as the International Labour Organisation, FIFA and the UN Human Rights Rapporteur.
“FIFA has called for improvements of core ILO standards and an end to the Kafala system, they will report back in March 2014, we can only hope the Qatar government will make the right choice,” said Sharan Burrow.