UN Calls On Qatar to Abolish Kafala Migrant Worker System

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The UN called on Qatar to abolish the kafala system that ties migrant workers to their employers, amid trenchant criticism of the conditions endured by those working in a construction boom in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup.

UN Calls On Qatar to Abolish Kafala Migrant Worker System

In a report by the special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, the UN general assembly has added to the pressure on the Persian Gulf state to fundamentally reform and properly enforce its labor laws.

Reports in the Guardian and by human rights groups have consistently warned of the exploitation and abuse of up to 1.2 million migrant workers, who are propping up a £123bn construction boom over the next four years.

The UN report found that exploitation was "frequent", confirming that migrants often worked without pay and "live in substandard conditions", and also called for changes to the recruitment process. Domestic workers, currently excluded from labor laws, and the majority of whom are women and girls, were "extremely vulnerable to violence and abuse" it said.

"The recruitment process for migrants needs to be further formalised in order to prevent exploitation, and legislation must be enforced in order to ensure their rights are respected. The kafala system, which links a work permit to a single employer, is a source of abuse and exploitation of migrants and should be abolished."

Qatari officials have promised recent visiting delegations of MEPs and human rights groups that they are planning to introduce reforms, but are likely to stop short of abolishing the kafala system.

A report commissioned by the Qataris from the law firm DLA Piper, following the Guardian's original reports, is due to be published shortly.

Many workers arrive in Qatar heavily in debt, having paid huge sums to middlemen to secure contracts in the fast-growing Persian Gulf state.

There are an estimated 1.2 million migrant workers in Qatar. Those from India make up 22% of the total, with a similar proportion from Pakistan. About 16% are from Nepal, 13% from Iran, 11% from the Philippines, 8% from Egypt and 8% from Sri Lanka.

Figures from the Nepalese and Indian embassies show that 36 workers died in Qatar in February, although not all of those death may have occurred on building sites. Data from the Indian embassy showed a further 26 Indian migrant workers died in March.

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