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State of Qatar

 

Human Rights Overview

New laws were passed offering migrant workers better legal protections. Despite government measures to control the spread of COVID-19, migrant workers bore the brunt of the pandemic’s impact. In March 2020, the government introduced a series of measures to control the spread of COVID-19, including access to free health care, and provided financial support to businesses. The authorities further tightened restrictions on freedom of expression. Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. Executions resumed after a 20-year hiatus.

In October 2021, for the first time, Qatar held elections for its Shura Council (an advisory body that acts as a quasi- parliament).  During this election Qataris selected 30 seats of the 45 members of the Shura Council. The remaining 15 seats will be appointed by the Emir. Qatar’s Shura Council was established in 1972, following the passing of the Amended Provisional Basic Law of Rule in the State of Qatar.

 

Migrant Workers’ Rights

Significant reforms aiming to protect migrant workers from labor abuse and exploitation were introduced, but employers continued to retain disproportionate powers as they oversee the entry and residence of migrant workers and can file criminal “absconding” charges against them. Following announcements by the Minister of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs (MADLSA) in 2019 to abolish the kafala (sponsorship) system, in January 2020 the Ministry of Interior extended the abolition of the exit permit requirement to include domestic workers, stipulating, however, that they inform employers 72 hours before their departure.

In June 2020, MADLSA announced the opening of a joint office with the Judiciary Supreme Council to facilitate implementation of the decisions of newly established committees to resolve labor disputes. However, access to justice for migrant workers remained largely slow and fruitless, and the conditions under which workers could collect their unpaid wages from the support fund, set up to help them recoup their money, were unclear.

In August 2020, the Emir signed a series of laws setting a non-discriminatory minimum wage that must be revised annually, and two others abolishing the necessity for migrant workers to obtain the “No-Objection Certificate” from their employer to change jobs. The new legislation enabled workers to change jobs freely through an online process led by MADLSA.

The final countdown to the next World Cup in November 2022 has started. But despite introducing important legal reforms, Qatar has still not delivered on its promise to end labor abuses and exploitation of its more than two million migrant workers. Amnesty International research shows that the past year has seen an actual erosion of newly protected migrant workers’ rights, with old abusive practices resurfacing, reviving the worst elements of the kafala sponsorship system and undermining reforms. The government has failed to rigorously implement the changes, throwing into doubt the pledge by key stakeholders that the World Cup would be a game changer for migrant workers in Qatar.

Qatari authorities have failed to investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers over the past decade, despite evidence of links between premature deaths and unsafe working conditions. The organization’s new report, In the Prime of their Lives, documents how Qatar routinely issues death certificates for migrant workers without conducting adequate investigations, instead attributing deaths to “natural causes” or vaguely defined cardiac failures.

 

Migrant women domestic workers

Migrant domestic workers, mostly women, continued to face severe forms of abuse without access to a remedy despite the Domestic Workers Law introduced in 2017. Many employers made women work an average of 16 hours a day, denied them rest, prevented them from taking a day off in the week, and confiscated their passports despite this being illegal. These abuses took place in a climate of complete impunity for perpetrators. The only shelter, established in 2019, to offer refuge for domestic workers fleeing abuse and exploitation was not fully operational, making it even more difficult for them to leave an abusive workplace, let alone press charges against their employer.

 

Right to health

The COVID-19 crisis exposed the vulnerability of migrant workers in Qatar. Although the government introduced some positive measures, such as free health care and testing for everybody, migrant workers were particularly affected by the pandemic and exposed to infection as a result of overcrowded and often insanitary living conditions. Cases of unpaid wages increased sharply from March and despite government- backed financial packages to support businesses and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, thousands of companies failed to pay workers on time. Despite the government’s announcement of measures and efforts to provide support to migrant workers, some of those living in lockdown areas complained about the lack of food and supplies.

 

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression was further restricted by a vaguely worded law passed in January 2020 that criminalized a broad range of speech and publishing. Under the law, “biased” broadcasting or publishing can be punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of QAR100,000 (over US$25,000).

The authorities continued to exercise arbitrary executive powers, placing administrative sanctions such as travel bans on individuals without judicial process, in some cases seemingly as punishment for their political opinions or peaceful activities.

Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan national, who was forcibly disappeared by Qatari authorities on May 4, 2021 and held in solitary confinement for a month, has finally been allowed to leave the country after paying a hefty fine for his human rights activism. The 28-year-old was a security guard, blogger and activist, who has been vocal about the plight of migrant workers like himself, and has written for a number of online platforms.

Abdullah Ibhais, Jordanian national, the former communications director for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organizers the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, was initially arrested on November 12, 2019 on charges of misuse of public funds, bribery, collusion to commit bribery, and causing harm to the Supreme Committee. He was detained for nearly six weeks, and for the first nine days was denied access to a lawyer. He was released from detention on 21 December 2019 and subjected to an unfair trial based on a “confession” obtained through threat and coercion.  On December 2021, the appeal court upheld a guilty verdict and sentenced him to three years in prison.

 

Women’s Rights

Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. Family law continued to discriminate against women, including by making it much harder for them to seek a divorce, severely disadvantaging them economically if they sought a divorce or their husband left them.

In its report following its visit to Qatar, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention noted that women under the age of 25 must obtain the permission of their male guardians to engage in daily activities such as signing contracts and leaving the country. As a result, it said, “women were prevented from leaving their family homes without the permission of their legal guardians, resulting in de facto deprivation of liberty by their families.”

 

Right to Privacy

Qatar’s contact tracing app EHTERAZ, developed by the Ministry of Interior to contain the spread of COVID-19, had a serious security flaw that exposed sensitive personal details of over 1 million users. Once the authorities were alerted to the flaw, they quickly fixed it. The app, like many others, remained problematic due to its lack of privacy safeguards.

 

Death Penalty

Executions resumed in April 2020 after a 20-year hiatus.

Qatar Newsroom



May 18, 2022 • Report

FIFA Should Match $440M World Cup Prize Money to Fund Major Compensation Program for Abused Migrant Workers in Qatar

FIFA should earmark at least $440M to provide remedy for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have suffered human rights abuses in Qatar during preparations for the 2022 World Cup, Amnesty International said in a new report today, six months ahead of the tournament's opening game.

February 26, 2019 • Report

Human rights in the Middle East and North Africa: A review of 2018

The international community’s chilling complacency towards wide-scale human rights violations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has emboldened governments to commit appalling violations during 2018 by giving them …

February 4, 2019 • Report

Qatar: Authorities must step up efforts to honour labour rights promises before 2022 World Cup

With less than four years to go until the 2022 World Cup, the Qatari authorities risk falling behind on their promise to tackle widespread labour exploitation of thousands of migrant workers, Amnesty International said today.

September 25, 2018 • Report

Qatar: Migrant workers unpaid for months of work by company linked to World Cup host city

A new investigation by Amnesty International has exposed how an engineering company involved in building 2022 FIFA World Cup infrastructure took advantage of Qatar’s notorious sponsorship system to exploit scores of migrant workers. The company, Mercury MENA, failed to pay its workers thousands of dollars in wages and work benefits, leaving them stranded and penniless in Qatar.

December 9, 2016 • Report

New name, old system? Qatar’s new employment law and abuse of migrant workers

Changes to labor laws in Qatar barely scratch the surface and will continue to leave migrant workers, including those building stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup, at the mercy of exploitative bosses and at risk of forced labor, said Amnesty International in a new briefing.

March 29, 2016 • Report

The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game

Migrant workers building Khalifa International Stadium in Doha for the 2022 World Cup have sufferedsystematic abuses, in some cases forced labour, Amnesty International reveals in a new report published today.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

May 20, 2015 • Report

Promising Little, Delivering Less: Qatar and Migrant Labor Abuse Ahead of the 2022 Football World Cup

More than a year after Qatar’s government promised limited reforms to improve migrant labor rights, hopes of true progress are fading fast, says Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

November 10, 2014 • Report

No Extra Time: How Qatar is Still Failing on Workers’ Rights Ahead of the World Cup

Qatar’s authorities are lagging severely behind on efforts to address the rampant abuse of migrant workers’ rights, despite the government's announcement of a series of reforms to tackle exploitation ahead of the 2022 World Cup. "No Extra Time: How Qatar is Still Failing on Workers’ Rights Ahead of the World Cup" sets out how the Qatari government has failed to reform the systems that facilitate the abuse of migrant workers and has made only minimal progress on a number of plans it announced in May 2014.

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