Qatar detains and evicts workers protesting late wages ahead of FIFA World Cup

Qatar detains and evicts workers protesting late wages ahead of FIFA World Cup

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Qatar recently arrested at least 60 foreign workers who went on strike for months without pay and deported some of them, an advocacy group said, just three months before Doha is set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. does

The move comes as Qatar faces intense international scrutiny over its work practices ahead of the tournament. Like other Gulf Arab states, Qatar relies heavily on foreign labor. A labor demonstration a week ago – and Qatar’s response – could further fuel concerns.

The head of a labor consultancy investigating the incident said the detentions raised new doubts about Qatar’s commitment to improving its treatment of workers. “Is this really a reality?” asked Mustafa Qadri, CEO of Equidem Group.

In a statement to The Associated Press on Sunday night, Qatar’s government acknowledged that “a number of protesters were arrested for violating public safety laws.” It declined to provide information on the arrests or any deportations.

Video footage posted online shows about 60 workers protesting over their salaries outside the offices of Al-Bandari International Group in Doha on August 14, a conglomerate that includes construction, real estate, hotels, food services and other companies. are included. Equidem said, some of those protestors have not received their salaries for seven months.

Demonstrators blocked an intersection in front of Al-Shammoukh Tower on C Ring Road, Doha. The footage matches the street’s familiar details, including several large portraits of Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, watching over the route.

The privately owned Bandari International Group did not respond to a request for comment and a phone number registered in its name was not connected to multiple attempts to call it.

The Qatari government has admitted that the company has not paid salaries and that the Ministry of Labor will pay “all back wages and benefits” to those affected.

“The company was under investigation by the authorities for non-payment of wages prior to the incident, and further action is being taken after it missed a deadline for payment of arrears,” the government said.

Qadri said the police later arrested the protestors and imprisoned them in a detention center, which some said was in extreme heat without air. The temperature in Doha this week has reached 41 degrees Celsius.

Qadri explained that the police told the arrested people that if they could strike in hot weather, they could sleep without air conditioning.

A detained worker who called the academy from a detention center said he had seen about 300 of his colleagues from Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Nepal and the Philippines. He said that some were paid salaries after the protest, but others were not. His statements cannot be verified.

Qatar, like other Gulf Arab states, has in the past expelled protesting foreign workers and blocked residency visas for work. According to the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House, the right to form unions is tightly controlled and available only to Qataris, as is the country’s limited right to assembly.

Qatar, a small, energy-rich country on the Arabian Peninsula, is home to the state-funded Al Jazeera satellite news network. However, expression in the country is strictly controlled. Qatar detained him last year and later deported him A Kenyan security guard who has written and spoken publicly about the plight of the country’s migrant labor force.

After FIFA awarded the competition to Qatar in 2010. The country has taken some steps to review the country’s employment practices. This included dismantling its so-called employment system, which tied workers to their employers, who had a say in whether they could quit their jobs or even leave the country.

Qatar has also approved a minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals ($360) per month for workers and requires food and housing allowances for workers who do not receive it directly from their employers.

Activists like Qadri have called on Doha to do more, especially when it comes to ensuring workers get paid on time and are protected from abusive employers.

“Have we all been cheated by Qatar over the last few years?” asked Qadri. Qadri questioned whether the latest reforms could be “a cover” for authorities to allow labor practices to continue.

The World Cup will start in November in Qatar.

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