Qatar has been provided yet another way to counter its World Cup criticism of its labor practices. The recent US State Department report on human trafficking has offered another warning to the country. ILO, International Labour Organization, last May explained the establishment of a commission of Inquiry if Qatar didn’t take steps to reform…
That sort of commission is one of the most powerful tools that the ILO can use to pressure compliance with international treaties. There have only been 13 such commissions in the last century, the last established in 2010 to get Zimbabwe to live up to its obligations.
The stepped up pressure on Qatar is the result of a perception that the Gulf state has yet to live up to promises of labour reform made since the 2010 awarding of the 2022 World Cup hosting rights. Qatar and several of its institutions, including the supreme committee responsible for organizing the Cup, have since then taken steps to counter abuse of a system that trade unions and human rights groups denounce as modern slavery. Qatar has however stopped short of taking steps that would fundamentally reform, if not, abolish the system. Called kafala, the system involves a sponsorship regime for foreign workers who account for some 90 percent of Qatar’s workforce, that puts employees at the mercy of their employers. Kafala gives employers the unilateral power to cancel residence permits, deny workers the ability to change employers at will and refuse them permission to leave the country.
According to the report: “Debt-laden migrants who face abuse or are misled often avoid reporting their exploitation out of fear of reprisal, the lengthy recourse process, or lack of knowledge of their legal rights, making them more vulnerable to forced labour, including debt bondage.”
The State Department, said that while Qatar has made some “significant efforts,” it failed to take enough steps to significantly combat human trafficking since last year.
The report took Qatar to task on three fronts: the implementation of existing legislation and reforms, its failure to act on a host of issues that would bring the Gulf state into compliance with international labour standards, and its spotty reporting.