Sun, Sep 29, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Mistreatment entrenched in Qatar’s economy

The contractors constructing the Qatar World Cup village are not just exploiting migrant workers, they are creating a system of ‘modern-day slavery.’ Their tools are not new in a gulf state, built on migrant labor

By Pete Pattisson  /  The Guardian, KATHMANDU and DOHA

SBD said he was employed by a subcontractor that supplies laborers for the project. Some workers say their subcontrator has confiscated their passports and refused to issue the ID cards they are entitled to under Qatari law.

“Our manager always promises he’ll issue [our cards] ‘next week,’” added a scaffolder who said he had worked in Qatar for two years without being given an ID card.

Without official documentation, migrant workers are in effect reduced to the status of illegal aliens, often unable to leave their place of work without fear of arrest and not entitled to any legal protection. Under the state-run kafala sponsorship system, workers are also unable to change jobs or leave the country without their sponsor company’s permission.

A third worker, who was equally reluctant to give his name for fear of reprisal, added: “We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us. If we run away, we become illegal and that makes it hard to find another job. The police could catch us at any time and send us back home. We can’t get a resident permit if we leave.”

Other workers said they were forced to work long hours in temperatures of up to 50C° without access to drinking water.

The Qatari labor ministry said it had strict rules governing working in the heat, the provision of labor and the prompt payment of salaries.

“The ministry enforces this law through periodic inspections to ensure that workers have in fact received their wages in time. If a company does not comply with the law, the ministry applies penalties and refers the case to the judicial authorities,” the ministry said.

Lusail Real Estate Company said: “Lusail City will not tolerate breaches of labor or health and safety law. We continually instruct our contractors and their subcontractors of our expectations and their contractual obligations to both us and individual employees. The Guardian have highlighted potentially illegal activities employed by one subcontractor. We take these allegations very seriously and have referred the allegations to the appropriate authorities for investigation. Based on this investigation, we will take appropriate action against any individual or company who has found to have broken the law or contract with us.”

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