Qatar Must Act to Protect the Rights of Foreign Laborers
Freedom House is concerned by a new report detailing the continuation of exploitative and deadly conditions imposed on foreign workers in Qatar. The Guardian newspaper published claims that at least 44 foreign workers have died due to poor work conditions in the past three months alone. In a country where civil liberties and political rights are severely restricted for residents and citizens alike, foreign workers face especially repressive conditions.
Much of Qatar’s recent growth has been built on the backs of foreign laborers, which today represent approximately 90 percent of the country’s population. Thousands of workers face exploitative and inhumane conditions akin to modern day slavery, including the non-payment of salaries, the imposition of large debts by employers due before they can receive salaries or leave the country, and even the denial of access to drinking water. Furthermore, the existence of exit visa requirements, which can prevent exploited workers from fleeing the country if denied permission by their employers, exacerbates the already abusive environment.
Fundamental political and civil liberties are denied to Qatari citizens, including freedom of expression, association, and democratic change of government. The absence of any kind of civil society or free press, through which Qatari citizens could hold their government to account, facilitates the current status quo where the rights of citizens and foreigners alike are repressed.
Past promises by the Qatari government to end human tracking and improve the labor conditions of foreign workers in the country have proved empty. As a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Qatar has made a commitment to uphold ILO standards, including the elimination of forced labor, however, existing Qatari labor laws designed to govern the conduct of employers and protect foreign workers largely go unenforced.
As Qatar prepares to step onto the world stage as host of the 2022 World Cup, Freedom House calls on the Qatari government to unequivocally act to protect the rights and lives of laborers and foreign workers, in addition to easing restrictions on the fundamental civil and political freedoms of Qatari citizens.
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