General Federation of Nepalese Trade Union (GEFONT), Trade Union Congress (NTUC), the Belgian federation of construction workers ACV-CSC BIE, Belgian NGO WSM, The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of India CFTUI ,Domestic workers’ movement (NDWM) from India issued a joint press release urging Qatari Government to Abolish the essence of the Kafala system, Guarantee freedom of association and right to organize for migrant workers, Extend the coverage of the labor law to include domestic workers and protection from physical and verbal assault, sexual harassment and slavery,Facilitate access to the justice system and efficient complaint mechanisms for migrant workers.
“Around 1.200 migrant workers have died in Qatar since it was awarded the World Cup in December 2010 and it is projected 7.000 more will die by the time the championship takes place in 2022. A research on the causes of deaths found that of 186 Nepalese workers who died, 107 died suddenly of an unknown cause, 23 died in traffic accidents, 21 from “intentionally self-harm”, 11 were killed by falling objects and the rest of 24 died of “other causes”. Often the migrant workers have to work on construction sites in temperatures soaring over 40° C, in dangerous conditions with no safety facilities. After work, many return to squalid accommodation where they are being squeezed in overcrowded and inhumane barrack-style compounds.
Although the new law can be considered as a positive step, we consider the measures that have been taken by the Qatari Government to address the forced labour situation are too little and too slow, and it still remains to be seen whether the new law will really be implemented.
Therefore, we urge the Government of Qatar to:
• Abolish the essence of the Kafala (sponsorship) system by further amending the new Bill 21/ 2015 on the regulation of “the entry and exit of expatriates and their residency”, in order to enforce the legal provisions on passport confiscation and reform the exit permit system;
• Guarantee freedom of association and right to organize for migrant workers to form their own unions and exercising the rights to collective bargaining;
• Extend the coverage of the labour law to include (female) domestic workers and protection from physical and verbal assault, sexual harassment and slavery.
• Facilitate access to the justice system and efficient complaint mechanisms for migrant workers. This includes, but is not limited to, effective labour inspection, assistance with language and translation, free of charge and without fear of reprisals;” reads joint press release.
The joint press release further reads “Despite the reform of law in Qatar, we also urge the Government of Nepal and India to:
• Reform the migrant labour law (e.q Foreign Employment Act 2007) and employment policy in order to protect and empower migrant workers. This includes zero-cost migration, mandatory pre-departure training, sufficient vocational training, recruitment and placement procedure, verification system of fake documents, simplify bureaucracy and preventing corrupt practices;
• The right to vote for 2 million Nepalese migrant workers, whose remittances contribute 28,2% of Nepalese GDP
• Renew the Government to Government binding agreements which should guarantee safe migration, increased minimum wages, equal benefits and social protection for migrant workers.
• Have interventions with their embassy in Qatar to prevent human and migrant rights violations against Nepali and Indian migrant workers and to fully engage in times of crisis.
• Ensure that contracts signed in the sending countries are not altered in Qatar, prosecute those suspected of exploitation - including the crime of forced labour and forced migration - and blacklist employers & labour suppliers who have committed workers’ rights violations. ”