World Cup 2022 host Qatar approves some foreign worker reforms

Nassos Stylianou
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Pressure has grown on Doha over the 2022 World Cup (Source: Getty)

The Qatari government has approved measures to ameliorate the treatment of foreign workers in the Gulf state following the revelations that laid bare the suffering of migrant labourers employed on World Cup 2022 related infrastructure projects.

The steps should ensure that firms set up bank accounts for employees and transfer their wages electronically within a maximum seven days of the payment date, the minister of labour and social affairs Abdullah Saleh Mubarak al-Khulaifi announced on Sunday.

The changes also enforce a ban on working during the hours of 11.30am and 3.00pm of the scorching summer months, when temperatures in the emirate soar beyond 40 degrees Celsius.

An investigation by the Guardian published last year revealing that labourers, most of them Nepalese, died at a rate of almost one a day in the summer of 2013 drew fierce criticism from the international community. According to the newspaper, their investigation showed evidence suggesting that labourers were exploited and faced abuses that amounted to "modern day slavery", with workers routinely not given sufficient food and water.

The emirate has the highest proportion of migrant workers in the world based on its population and figures have surged even higher recently as local companies recruit foreigners, a large percentage of them from Nepal, to work on large construction projects for the World Cup scheduled to take place in 2022.

Since the Guardian articles, a report commissioned by Qatar's government confirming that hundreds of migrants have died over the past two years, a number of them from unexplained sudden illness, has been released.

In May, the state proposed changes to the kafala system that ties workers to their employers so that labourers need employee permission to switch jobs.

"The reforms announced in May will replace the kafala system with a modern contract between worker and employer," al-Khulaifi said in a statement.

"However, the direction we are taking is firmly set and every effort is being made to put in place the reforms as quickly as possible - as these most recent measures show," he said.

According to Reuters, the emirate's government has also agreed to launch an electronic complaint system and is building accommodation to accommodate up to 150,000 workers.

However it was unclear when the government actually adopted these measures and the timeframe for their implementation.

Doha has come under renewed pressure in the last couple of months over the 2022 World Cup, with the Sunday Times revealing a tranche of documents that attempt to expose how Qatar's victorious bid to host the tournament was sealed by a covert campaign of secret payments by the country’s top football official Mohamed bin Hammam.

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