Qatar sets up support fund for migrant workers in latest labour reforms

Qatar sets up support fund for migrant workers in latest labour reforms
World Cup 2022 host Qatar has announced the latest in a series of UN-backed labour reforms in the tiny Gulf state on Wednesday.
2 min read
01 November, 2018
Qatar has been praised for its rapid labour reforms [Getty]
Qatar set up a support fund for foreign workers who run into difficulties, authorities said on Wednesday, the latest in a series of UN-backed labour reforms.

Doha state media said the fund would "support and care for workers, secure their rights and provide a healthy and safe work environment for them".

It is the latest reform announced by the World Cup 2022 host, which has come under intense international pressure over its treatment of migrant labourers.

Earlier this week, Doha said it had implemented the near abolition of the exit visa system, which requires foreign workers to obtain their bosses' permission to leave the country.

The changes are part of a three-year agreement signed by Qatar last November with the UN's International Labour Organisation to oversee reform.

"This fund could bring hope to hundreds of migrant workers who have been ripped off by abusive companies," said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty's deputy director for global issues.

"Although it remains to be seen how the law will be implemented in practice, this is a welcome step towards meeting Qatar's promises to improve the labour rights of its migrant workers," he added.

In all, there are more than 20 million migrants, mainly from South Asia, working across the Middle East under the kafala system in both construction and domestic labour.

The tiny Gulf state of Qatar has previously been criticised for its treatment of migrant workers as it prepares to host the World Cup, with the kafala system being singled out as a system that allows unscrupulous bosses to keep workers in servitude.

In March, authorities announced they would be paying back the recruitment fees for 30,000 migrant workers by the end of 2019 as part of a £3.6m ($5m) payout.

The money is paid by workers in their home countries to contractors who find them work abroad. But payments were only reimbursed if the worker could produce receipts, which rarely happened.

But the 2022 tournament is being presented as a catalyst for change; a showcase of Qatar's progress and development.

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