'My Sleep Is My Break' Exploitation Of Migrant Domestic Workers In Qatar

April 23, 2014

'My Sleep Is My Break' Exploitation Of Migrant Domestic Workers In Qatar

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  • Deception about what their working conditions will be when they start work, particularly salary;
  • Extreme working hours and lack of rest days, including seven-day, 100-hour working weeks;
  • Severe restrictions on freedom of movement and communication, including not being able to leave the house or make mobile phone calls;
  • Verbal harassment and dehumanising treatment; and
  • Physical and sexual violence.

Some domestic workers interviewed by Amnesty International in Qatar are victims of forced labour and human trafficking; recruited with false promises of good salaries and decent working hours, compelled to work for employers who would not let them leave and facing – in several cases – the threat of physical abuse or lost wages if they challenged the employer.

Qatari officials have stressed to Amnesty International that migrant domestic workers are treated with respect, like "members of the family", by their employers. In a response to allegations of abuse against domestic workers made by the Guardian newspaper in February 2014, the government stated that the "vast majority" of domestic workers "work amicably, save money and send this home to improve the economic situation of their families and communities in their home countries".

Amnesty International has interviewed women who said their employers respected their rights. The organization does not claim that all domestic workers in Qatar are poorly treated or that all employers are abusers. Researchers met employers who were angered by cases of abuse and who had attempted to assist domestic workers in other households who were in distress. Nevertheless, the organization does not accept government claims that abuses against domestic workers in Qatar represent exceptional or isolated cases. This assessment is made on three main grounds.