The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar's Construction Sector Ahead of the World Cup

November 17, 2013

The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar's Construction Sector Ahead of the World Cup

In addition, many of the laws and regulations which should protect workers are not effectively enforced at present. This particularly applies to the Labour Law and its associated decrees, and the provision in the Sponsorship Law banning the confiscation of passports by employers. In some cases this lack of enforcement appears to be caused by the government not having a sufficient number of trained officials, while in others there seems to be a lack of will among officials to enforce the law. Amnesty International urges the authorities to proactively enforce these laws.

Individuals whose labour rights are abused face significant obstacles when they try to access justice. In particular, the Labour Court system is not fit for purpose, requiring workers to pay fees to have their cases proceed and forcing them to wait months and attend multiple sessions in the hope of recovering lost wages and other compensation. The Ministries of Labour and Justice should overhaul the labour complaints and Labour Court systems to give workers better access to justice.

Where companies claim to be experiencing financial difficulties and have apparently failed to keep reserve funds to pay workers and assist them in leaving the country, migrant workers' ordeals can last many months, during which time they can face the risk of being arrested for not having valid residence permits. Workers in these crisis situations would be well served by much closer collaboration between government departments and agencies to expedite resolution of their cases. For this reason Amnesty International urges the Government of Qatar to consider setting up an integrated cross-government unit tasked with addressing and resolving such labour crises.

Amnesty International recognizes that governments of countries from which most migrant workers come also have responsibilities for protecting migrants from abuse. Networks of recruitment agents and brokers in both the countries of departure and destination operate to deceive people with false promises over terms and conditions of work. Action to prevent such deception requires cooperation between labour sending and receiving countries.

While this report focuses on abuses against migrant workers in Qatar, and the majority of its recommendations are for the Government of Qatar, Amnesty International's 2011 report False Promises: Exploitation and forced labour of Nepalese migrant workers called on the Government of Nepal to ensure that its legislation in relation to false or substituted contracts was implemented, to stop rogue recruitment agents from trafficking migrant workers for exploitation and forced labour. The organization is currently carrying out research into recruitment practices in other countries of origin for migrant workers who come to the Gulf and plans to publish this in the coming months.