Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

A UN agency has granted Qatar even more time to address allegations of “forced labor” before deciding whether the country should be sanctioned.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) decided yesterday to continue monitoring Qatar for human rights violations until November of this year.

When it convenes in eight months time, it will revisit whether to open a Commission of Inquiry, its highest investigative mechanism.

ILO/Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to those who attended this week’s meeting, about 18 governments weighed in on the decision.

Some of them, including the UAE and Sudan, two Qatar allies, urged the complaint to be dropped altogether, but were unsuccessful.

Pressure is on

The ILO has been investigating allegations by unions against Qatar since last year, and visited the nation to inspect working conditions for expats.

Last March, the UN agency decided to give Qatar a year to work on the issues at hand, as the country was in the middle of changing its laws.

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Authorities did implement some labor reforms in December. But they did not completely do away with the exit permit system or no objection certificate requirement to change jobs.

This has drawn the ire of many rights groups, including Amnesty International.

Speaking to Doha News yesterday, James Lynch, deputy director of Amnesty’s Global Issues Program, hailed the ILO’s decision. He said it would keep the pressure on Qatar, as “half-hearted reforms” are not enough.

He continued:

“Since the complaint was first brought in 2014, the government has done little to change the power imbalance between employers and migrant workers.

Between now and November, Qatar needs to tackle the fundamentals. It should start by genuinely abolishing the exit permit system so that employers have no right to interfere in a migrant worker’s ability to leave the country.”

Strides made

For its part, Qatar has not publicly commented on the ILO proceedings.

However, in a document it sent to the UN agency last month, officials outlined various pieces of legislation aimed at safeguarding workers.

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Residents line up at a bank to open accounts ahead of the start of WPS in 2015.

This includes the new labor reforms, the Wage Protection System (WPS) and a draft law protecting house help.

It also pledged to increase the number of inspectors on construction sites, establish a complaint hotline for abused expats and conduct a study to gain insight into the conditions and sentiments of blue-collar workers in Qatar.

Thoughts?

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Frozen chicken from Brazil

All shipments of meat and chicken from Brazil are being checked at Qatar’s ports to ensure their quality before they are cleared for sale, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) has announced.

The move comes after evidence was found that meat-packers in Brazil had been selling rotten products for years.

Some 30 people were arrested last week, three packing plants were closed down and 21 are under investigation, according to the BBC.

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Brazilian officials have stressed that these plants account for only a fraction of the industry, but many nations that import Brazilian meat and poultry products have suspended imports nonetheless.

That includes China, South Korea and the European Union.

Lab samples taken

Frozen halal chicken from Brazil is very popular in Qatar. And shoppers are sure to notice its lack of availability in the coming days and weeks.

According to an official from Qatar Foods, 90 percent of the nation’s poultry comes from the South American country.

The Peninsula reports business consultant Iqbal Vadakara as saying:

“Restriction of products from Brazil could lead to an acute shortage of poultry and meat products in the market. Almost all the major fast moving frozen chicken brands in the market are imported from Brazil.”

Once lab samples are analyzed and products are found fit for human consumption, the meat and poultry will be released, MOPH said.

Thoughts?

Note: The lead image in this article has been changed, as Sadia chicken says it was not affected by the curbs.

BRIYYZ/Flickr

A British Airways Boeing 787-800

Passengers flying from several cities in the Middle East to the UK have also been prohibited from carrying most electronic devices onboard, officials have announced.

The move follows in the footsteps of a new rule issued by the US today that requires passengers coming from eight countries (including Qatar) to pack any device larger than a cell phone into their checked luggage.

However, the UK ban affects fewer nations.

Mobile Internet Device

Pixabay

Photo for illustrative purposes only

In a statement, the Department of Transport said “Phones, laptops and tablets larger than 16.0cm x 9.3cm x 1.5cm not allowed in the cabin on flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tunisia.”

This means passengers flying through Qatar and the UAE have escaped the new requirements if they’re heading to London or other UK cities.

According to Sky News, some UK airlines will also be affected by the ban:

Safety concerns

US officials cited the possibility of a terrorist attack as a reason for instituting its indefinite electronics ban.

The UK transport department said that it understood the new measures would cause “frustration,” but it was also concerned about safety.

“The House will recognize that we face a constantly evolving threat from terrorism and must respond accordingly to ensure the protection of the public against those who would do us harm,” it said.

However, officials added, “we remain open for business. People should continue to fly and comply with security procedures.”

Thoughts?

Frankieleon / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only

Updated with Qatar Airways statement

Passengers flying non-stop to the US from Doha are now prohibited from using iPads, Kindles and most other electronic items during their journeys.

The US Department of Homeland Security has announced a ban on such items in the cabin of aircraft coming from 10 cities, including Doha.

Officials said the move was in response to concerns about terrorist attacks.

Reem Saad / Doha News

Hamad Airport security

In a statement released today, DHS cited intelligence suggesting that terrorist groups “continued to target commercial aviation and are aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.”

The agency added that the ban would only affect a “small percentage of flights” to the US and that no flight departing from the states would be affected.

The ban is effective immediately, though airlines have 96 hours to comply with the requirements.

Electronic items larger than a cell phone will not be accepted on board flights, including laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, portable DVD players, electronic game units larger than a smartphone and travel printers/scanners.

Passengers would instead have to store such devices in their checked luggage. Medical equipment is exempted.

The ban is in place indefinitely.

Direct flights to the USA

The 10 affected cities are all from the Middle East.

They are Doha, Cairo, Amman, Kuwait City, Casablanca, Riyadh, Jeddah, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Boeing

The Boeing 777

It will affect flights on nine different airlines, including Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad and Saudi Arabia.

Royal Jordanian actually tweeted passengers about the ban yesterday, but then deleted the post, saying a further update was coming soon.

Qatar Airways, which flies directly from Doha to 10 US cities, has issued a travel alert to passengers about the ban.

In a statement on its website, it said that it had made “special arrangements” to assist passengers in securing their devices in the aircraft’s baggage hold.

It did not elaborate on what these arrangements are.

How it will affect passengers

But the ban means all Qatar Airways passengers flying to the US – whether they are beginning their journey in Doha or starting it elsewhere and switching planes at Hamad International – will have to place larger electronic items in their checked-in baggage.

Chapendra/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This includes iPads, laptops, gaming devices and cameras.

The move is likely to cause considerable confusion for passengers boarding Qatar Airways flights in other countries, and frustration for customers who had hoped to use their devices to work or for entertainment during their flights.

Passengers flying from Doha to the US via airports not affected by the ban, such as London, Amsterdam or Frankfurt, will still be able to keep their electronics with them onboard.

It is still unclear whether flight crew from the region – who use company-provided iPads as part of their jobs – will be allowed to bring them into the US.

Theft fears

Many passengers flying on Qatar Airways and other regional carriers are likely to be reluctant to place valuable electronic items in the hold, due to fears about damage or theft.

Some have expressed these concerns on Twitter:

And others have pointed out that the new ban seems to unfairly target major aviation hubs in the Muslim world:

Would the ban affect you? Thoughts?