What’s wrong with working in Qatar?



Shibu and Geetha live in the southern Indian state of Kerala. They are two of the millions of migrant workers who have gone abroad in search of decent wages.

Sharing their experiences of working in Qatar with documentary film maker Ben Crowe, Shibu and Geetha’s stories are a personal account of the hope, shame and fear that millions of migrant workers face every day in their drive to make a better living for themselves and their families.

Shibu held on working in Qatar for one long year. Waking up in a tented camp, with six bunkbeds, Shibu had to leave each morning at 4:00 am, arriving at the worksite at 6:00 am to work a twelve hour day.

Working on a dangerous site producing petroleum products in 40 degree heat, lots of accidents happened. Iron rods would fall down, people would faint.

According to Indian government sources, 500,000 Indians work in Qatar.

Human Rights Watch 2012 report, Building a Better World Cup, states “Law 14 of 2004—governing labor in the private sector—limits working hours, requires paid annual leave, sets requirements on health and safety, and requires on-time wages each month. Neither the law nor supporting legislation set a minimum wage.

The law allows Qatari workers to form unions, and permits strikes with prior government approval. Migrant workers have no right to unionize or strike, though they make up 99 percent of the private sector workforce.

Qatar employs only 150 labor inspectors to monitor compliance with the labor law, and inspections do not include worker interviews.

[Like in the other five States of the Cooperation Council of the Gulf (CCG)], a major barrier to redressing labor abuses is the kafala (sponsorship) system, which ties a migrant worker’s legal residence to his or her employer, or “sponsor.”

Migrant workers cannot change jobs without their sponsoring employer’s consent, except in exceptional cases with permission from the Interior Ministry.

If a worker leaves his or her sponsoring employer, even if fleeing abuse, the employer can report the worker as “absconding,” leading to detention and deportation. In order to leave Qatar, migrants must obtain an exit visa from their sponsor, and some said sponsors denied them these visas.”

Help us tell the Qatari authorities they should do the right thing for workers and allow them to form and join a trade union. Click here