Following a week-long visit to Qatar, a United Nations human rights expert has added his voice to a chorus of calls for reform in the country.
More specifically, François Crépeau, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, recommended the abolishment of the restrictive sponsorship (kafala) system and said workers should freely be allowed to change employers.
During the last eight days, Crépeau met with numerous workers in labor camps, shelters, deportation centers, the central prison and on the streets. His visit, which ended with a press conference this afternoon at the UN’s regional office in West Bay, also included meetings with local government officials, diplomats and members of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee.
Along with making it easier for migrants to switch sponsors, Crépeau called for the scrapping of the current exit permit system, suggesting it be replaced with one that requires creditors to ask courts for a travel ban on specific individuals.
Such a change is bound to face resistance in a country where the sponsorship system remains popular among Qataris. Last week, theQatar Chamber defended the current exit permit rules, saying they are needed to prevent hardships to companies caused by the sudden and unannounced departure of key employees, reports the Peninsula.
Crépeau released 14 recommendations in total, echoing the concerns of human rights and labor groups that have visited Qatar before him. His main points
- Calling for the establishment of a minimum wage;
- Allowing workers to organize; and
- Doing more to prevent illegal recruitment practices, including steep fees charged to expats before they even move to Qatar.
Crépeau also said he understood that the country’s policies on migrant labor, like so many other aspects of Doha’s physical and social infrastructure, haven’t been able to keep pace with the country’s explosive growth in recent years.
“The extremely rapid development of the Qatari economy has created intense demand for manpower that cannot be sustained by the Qatari population,” he said, noting the result is a country with the highest ratio of migrants to citizens in the world.
“It will take time before the labor inspection system is up to speed.”
Qatar’s human rights record is under increasing international scrutiny as the country rapidly increases its migrant workforce to construct facilities and infrastructure for the2022 World Cup.
While the growing number of expats increases the enforcement challenges, the upcoming football championship also puts the government under increased scrutiny that could prompt changes, Crépeau said.
“The World Cup increases the stress, but also increases the opportunities.” see more