Category Archives: Qatar

Sri Lanka’s war widows trafficked as slaves to Gulf

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When Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar took a flight from Colombo to Muscat in March she believed the boarding pass she clutched in her hand was her golden ticket to a better life after decades of war where she lost everything, including her husband.

The 54-year-old widow from Sri Lanka’s former war zone had been promised work as a maid for an affluent family in the Gulf state of Oman. She would get a nice room, decent working hours and 30,000 rupees ($150) a month – enough to pay off her debts.

But Nesemalhar’s dream soon turned into a nightmare. She found herself enslaved with other women in a dimly-lit room with no ventilation, miles from Muscat. She was taken out daily, sent to different homes to clean, and then locked up again at night. Continue reading

The embargo of Qatar is hurting foreign workers more than Qatari citizens

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When Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led the imposition of a political and economic blockade on Qatar last month, there were immediate, far-reaching consequences: Flights were canceled and rerouted, Qatari citizens were expelled from other Arab states of the Persian Gulf, shipping routes were closed and airspace was suddenly off-limits to Qatar’s pilots. But the blockade may have the biggest effect on Qatar’s largest — and most overlooked — population: foreign migrant workers, who make up about 90 percent of the country’s population.
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Pakistan’s Deported Masses

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“That hell,” was a windowless, dark cell in Brooklyn that Anser Mehmood, a Pakistani truck driver, had inhabited alone for four months in 2001.

Mehmood was a father to four children, at the time living in the port city of Bayonne, New Jersey on the Atlantic coastline. Guards surveilled him night and day from a computer monitor, watching his morose face harshly animated under the fluorescent lights. Continue reading

Qatar’s Struggle to Reform Labor Laws

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On March 22, the International Labor Organization (ILO) moved to give Qatar until November to reform its laws governing migrant labor. This builds on an ongoing investigation following a complaint lodged with the ILO in 2016 that workers are drawn into “forced labor.” The ILO will determine if Qatar’s labor laws contravene the forced labor convention, which Qatar ratified in 1998, possibly subjecting the Gulf state to scrutiny by a commission of inquiry.

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Ensure safe, orderly and regular migration

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Migrants workers are not slaves. They are human beings too, and have rights to survive with dignity like others in the world”, Dulal of Bangladesh said to me, while returning from Qatar recently. In Doha, Qatar to report on the plights of migrant workers, I met and talked to some of the ill-fated migrant workers of Bangladesh, they were returning Bangladesh empty handed. Dulal of Chittagong was one of them. His father paid Taka six hundred thousand to a middleman to send him to Qatar for what was purported to be a well-paid job. The broker arranged for a one-month’s VISA (In the name of free VISA) for Dulal from Dhaka, and urged him to go to Qatar, promising that the work visa would be extended for three years once he was there. At the end of the month however there was not only no extension, but the broken disappeared. Dulal never saw the broker again in Qatar and even the broker refused to answer his desperate calls. Continue reading

Migrant Workers in the Gulf Feel Pinch of Falling Oil Prices

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A labour camp in Dubai. Workers are allocated sleeping quarters based on nationality, and the number of occupants may be as high as eight per room. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

In the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a number of medium and large-sized buses can be spotted transporting workers clad in company uniforms to distant worksites early in the morning. In the evening or, in certain cases, late at night, these workers are brought back to labour camps in the same buses.

At the camps, the migrant workers barely have time to rest before the next workday. They huddle inside small, dingy quarters and the number of occupants may rise up to eight per room. With their belongings stuffed into every corner, they hardly have space to move and are vulnerable to catch infections from each other. Their day starts too early as they have to cook their food to carry to the site and ends late due to long journeys amid frequent traffic jams. Continue reading

Bangladesh workers abroad face hard time

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Mizanur Rahman, a mason at a construction firm in Saudi Arabia, is worried about losing his job. His employer has recently expressed inability to continue some of the ongoing projects due to financial crisis.

The lone breadwinner of a five-member family from Faridpur cannot even begin to imagine what would happen to his family if he loses the job.

“We are not getting our wages for the last six months. We are still working for the company, hoping the situation would change soon,” said Mizanur, who has been working for Saudi Oger, one of the largest construction firms in Saudi Arabia, for around four years.

“But there is no sign of improvement… Rather, our employer has told us that he may suspend some of the projects for fund crisis,” the 40-year-old migrant worker told The Daily Star over the phone from the kingdom yesterday. Continue reading

Why Telangana needs a stronger migrant labour policy

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More than 4 lakh people hailing from Telangana work in Gulf countries. They are often unaware of the politics, economy, cultural system or even the climate of their destination.

As the plane crosses the terrain of Muscat towards Doha, Jyoti and Kumari look in wonder at the 3D display in front of them running images of the Middle East landscape. The duo hail from a village near Hyderabad and are on their way to Qatar through an agent, to work as domestic workers. Both women come from an agricultural background and had to flee their hometown owing to a financial crisis. They are not aware of the politics, economy, cultural system or even the climate of their destination. They say they will be received by a local agent to take them to their place of work. Continue reading

Qatar is reforming labour laws, but is Nepal?

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Under sustained international criticism Qatar has reformed its controversial laws governing migrant workers. But for significant improvement in labour conditions there have to be changes in the way the Nepal government and recruiters treat their own workers.

After Qatar’s king approved an amendment to the law last week, more than 400,000 Nepali migrant workers, mostly hired for construction of infrastructure for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, are hopeful it will now be easier for Nepalis to return home or switch jobs more easily.

The new law will affect all 1.8 million foreign workers in the Gulf state, 400,000 of whom, are Nepalis. Continue reading