How wage abuse is hurting Qatar’s migrant workers

Angeline arrived in Qatar in 2018 hoping to provide for her three children, two brothers and mother back in the Philippines.

This was her first overseas employment stint and she wanted to make enough money to be able to buy a house for her family.

Now, Angeline is struggling to survive and waiting for the end of her contract so she can go home.

“They said it was a cash advance and will be deducted from the salary once we get paid.”

The cleaning company that Angeline works for has, like thousands of other businesses across Qatar, felt the brunt of government-enforced coronavirus restrictions.

“They said it was a cash advance and will be deducted from the salary once we get paid.”

The cleaning company that Angeline works for has, like thousands of other businesses across Qatar, felt the brunt of government-enforced coronavirus restrictions.

But Angeline says her employers have refused to support staff financially and have even confiscated passports and ATM cards – the latter action is illegal under Qatari law.

“In May, they told us they will give us 400 [riyals, or $110] if we sign a new contract. Those who refused were given another deductible cash advance of 200 [riyals]. We had no option but to agree. Otherwise, we would’ve starved to death.”

Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and its human rights record have been under the spotlight since it was awarded the hosting of football’s 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Under Qatar’s “kafala” (Arabic word for sponsorship) system, migrant workers must obtain their employers’ permission – a no-objection certificate (NOC) – before changing jobs, a law that rights activists say ties their presence in the country to their employers and could lead to abuse and exploitation.

However, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, released on Monday, said the country’s “efforts to protect migrant workers’ right to accurate and timely wages have largely proven unsuccessful”.

“Despite a handful of reforms in recent years, withheld and unpaid salaries, as well as other wage abuses, are persistent and widespread across at least 60 employers and companies in Qatar,” the report added.

HRW said most of the migrant workers it spoke to for the report experienced salary delays, non-payment of dues and end-of-service benefits. Some said “employers made arbitrary deductions from their salaries”.

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