UN recommendations on Qatar migrant rights

UN official puts forth 15 “preliminary recommendations” to Qatari government to boost protections for workers.

Employers often confiscate their workers' passports, despite a law forbidding them from doing so [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Qatar has much to do to improve conditions for its many migrant workers, according to the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants.

On Sunday, Francois Crepeau – who visited Qatar for eight days to look into migrants’ working conditions – made 15 “preliminary recommendations” to the Qatari government to boost protections for workers.

His recommendations are as follows:

  • Effectively implement existing legislation, including by enforcing the prohibition against the confiscation of passports, prosecute violations and impose meaningful sanctions on companies and individuals who violate laws designed to protect migrants’ rights.
  • Adopt legislation on domestic workers that include meaningful labour rights’ protection and effective compliance mechanisms.
  • Establish a minimum wage for all workers, including domestic workers.
  • Ensure that illegal recruitment fees are not charged, and that employment contracts signed in the sending countries are honoured and not altered in Qatar without the agreement of the migrant concerned. This could be achieved by adopting a uniform model contract with terms and conditions clearly stated, for all workers, regardless of their nationality, and ensuring they are properly informed on their rights in a language they understand.
  • Collect disaggregated data, inter alia, on complaints by migrant workers against their employers/sponsors, on labour standards violations, and on workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses.
  • Create a strong and effective labour inspection system, with more labour inspectors, who should be well trained on human rights standards, and interpreters in the most commonly used languages. Labour inspectors should monitor the enforcement of labour laws, including by interviewing the migrant workers, reviewing their contracts and making sure they are allowed to keep their passports, are issued IDs, and are paid on time.
  • Recognise the right of association and to self-organisation for all workers, including migrants.
  • Make it easier for migrants to change employers without sponsor/employer consent and abolish the exit visa requirement, which leads to a large number of migrants being stranded in Qatar for no apparent reason. Ultimately, abolish the kafala system and replace it by a regulated open labour market, where the work permit allows the worker to change employer.
  • Never detain individuals for the sole purpose of having ‘run away’ from their employer, always explore alternatives to detention, never detain children, and establish more shelters.
  • Provide appropriate detention conditions, and ensure that all migrants deprived of their liberty have easy access to means of contacting their family, consular services and a laywer, which should be free of charge if necessary, have access to an interpreter, and have the right to promptly challenge their detention.
  • Ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which would provide the Qatari government with a useful framework for managing migration while ensuring the full respect for the human rights of migrants.
  • Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and establish a National Preventive Mechanism with a mandate to undertake unannounced visits to all places where migrants are deprived of their liberty.
  • Consider seeking technical assistance from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in order to make sure Qatari legislation and practice is in line with these treaties.
  • Ratify ILO [International Labour Organisation] Conventions, including on migrant workers (no 97 and 143), freedom of association, right to organise and collective bargaining (no 87 and 98), domestic workers (189) and private employment agencies (181), and consider seeking technical assistance from the International Labour Organisation to ensure Qatari legislation and practice is in line with these Conventions.
Source: Al Jazeera