Report finds exploitation of migrant hotel workers in Qatar

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has just published a report based on a survey of 19 hotel companies representing over 100 global brands with properties across Qatar on their efforts to safeguard migrant workers’ rights.

With a staggering increase of hotel rooms by 26,000 just for the 2022 World Cup, there is a concurrent increase in hotel workers – and increased risk of abuse.

Migrants make up over 90% of the workforce in Qatar but unfortunately have historically been unprotected against labor and other human rights abuses due to the kafala system which is customary in the Gulf Region, and elsewhere, and binds employees to their employers, leaving them vulnerable to exploitative situations.

After years of promises, the Qatari labor ministry finally introduced legislative reforms to protect workers’ rights and effectively end the kafala system last September.

However, implementation is the new hurdle with reports continuing to pour in of migrant workers’ rights abuse and lack of access to the appropriate mechanisms to seek redress.

The BHRRC report, titled “Checked Out: Migrant worker abuse in Qatar’s World Cup luxury hotels,”  finds “a shocking contrast between hotels’ public policy commitments and their practical application or enforcement.”  

Al Jazeera reports,

Ten out of 18 workers interviewed from Africa or Asia said that pay and position were dependent on nationality, according to the findings.

Subcontracted workers reported receiving “substantially less pay for the same work and were subject to the most serious abuses, including passport confiscation and delayed wages with illegal deductions”.

Workers were not able to freely change jobs despite the landmark reform abolishing the No-Objection Certificate (Kafala system), the report said.

Almost all workers reported being scared to request to change jobs when they saw a better opportunity, some fearing the hotels would have them deported.

According to the report, only two hotel companies have taken active steps to ensure that workers have access to their passports. One worker told BHRRC that, “Indirectly employed workers have problems in accessing their passports, they are only provided with the identity card and staff card.”

Additionally, some workers reported having to pay a commission to secure jobs which, according to International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards, is not the worker’s but the employer’s responsibility.

With the FIFA World Cup fast approaching, the time is running out for Qatar to demonstrate its commitment to ending the forced labor of migrant workers.

Freedom United has gathered over 90,000 signatures calling for Qatar to abolish the kafala system and protect its migrant workers from exploitation.

Take action and add your name today.

Read the full report here.

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