Qatar has adopted a very clear legislation about migrant workers’ accommodation and other facilities, noted an official of International Labour Organisation (ILO) at a webinar on Wednesday.
“The government has made a legislation that each individual should have a minimum of six sq m space as well as other clauses. Recently there have been very thorough inspections on labour accommodations to check the status of those accommodations,” said Houtan Homayounpour, head of ILO Project Office, Qatar.
He was speaking at a webinar organised by Brookings Doha Centre on the topic of ‘Covid-19 and Migrant Workers in the Gulf.’ The ILO official was joined in the discussion by Zahra Babar, associate director for research at the Centre for International and Regional Studies, Georgetown University in Qatar and Borzou Daragahi, international correspondent at The Independent. The session was moderated by Noha Aboueldahab , fellow, Brookings Doha Centre.
“But the question is, are the laws being respected by the companies in the Gulf countries. We also have certain situation where workers are given allowance for their accommodation. But many of them prefer to stay in shared accommodations with their friends or others to save some of the money from the allowance. This as an opportunity to make some fundamental changes to such situations,” explained Homayounpour.
“Of late Qatar government has conducted a number of inspections on workers’ accommodations and has imposed fines on accommodations that have not respected the relevant rules. It is also reported that the inspectors will be making periodical inspections,” he continued.
The ILO official hoped that it is an occasion to educate the workers. “Workers should be made aware of living in proper living conditions. Workers should be given voice to be part of the solution. There should be proper consultations with the workers on their living conditions. It is a time of crisis but let us look at it as an opportunity to address some of the long lasting issues in many of the countries,” he pointed out.
Homayounpour also maintained that Qatar has a strategy in removing the lockdown in some of the areas of Industrial Area. "The government has a protocol in doing so. Government is gradually opening the area. While the people were being isolated, the areas have been deep cleansed. Though it is a time consuming and costly process, the government is doing it very seriously,” he maintained.
According to Babar, most migrant workers consider the medical fitness as a requirement to get a job in the Gulf. “Once they reach destination and start working, migrant workers may not even disclose their illnesses as they fear about the loss of jobs, or wages as well as finanical loss. So many of them are living in very challenging situations,” she highlighted.
As for the repatriation of the migrant workers during the pandemic, Babar noted that it was not an easy process. “It is not so easy to repatriate all the workers who want to go back to their countries. Sending back millions of people need a lot of preparations. The receiving countries have asked for more time to complete the logistics. The domestic workers also have to be taken care of in the situation,” she stated.
Daragahi highlighted the background of the migrant workers in their home countries. “I have visited some of the countries to learn about the living and social status of the migrant labourers. Most of the migrant labourers come from the marginalised sections of the society in their countries. They are looking for better living situation and standards by opting to work in the Gulf countries,” added Daragahi.
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