Browsing 'human rights' News

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Employers in Qatar must heed special working hours for outdoor employees starting June 15 – or face the consequences, the nation’s labor ministry has announced.

From June 15 to Aug. 31, work must stop on construction sites and other outdoor areas from 11:30am to 3pm, when the sun is at its peak.

Revised schedules should be posted in a place where all employees can see it, the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs said this week.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Companies that fall to follow special working hours can be closed for up to one month, it added.

Heat relief

Since summer set in weeks ago, some companies have already starting observing revised work hours to keep their employees in good health.

But the special schedule is likely to come as a relief to many who are continuing to toil outside in Qatar’s 40C+ heat.

Reem Saad / Doha News

Ramadan iftar tent

Ramadan also coincides with the hot season, making it harder for many laborers to make it through the day.

Islamic scholars have exempted these employees from fasting. But last year, some construction workers said they were choosing to fast anyway.

Many cited their faith in God and a desire to help their families as their main motivations to keep working.

Thoughts?

Amnesty International

Mohammed Al Otaibi

A Saudi Arabian man who fled to Qatar to avoid jail has been deported from Doha, officials have confirmed.

The move has been condemned by both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) as a “shameful and inhuman act.”

They say returning Mohammad Al-Otaibi to Saudi Arabia puts him at risk for ill treatment or torture.

The 49-year-old faces charges related to starting a human rights organization in 2013 without the necessary licenses, according to HRW.

He has also been accused of using the internet to hurt the reputation of Saudi Arabia and of publishing false reports on social media that cause “international human rights organizations (to become) hostile to the kingdom.”

After arriving in Qatar, Al-Otaibi secured United Nations refugee status in Norway. But he was arrested at Hamad International Airport last week when trying to fly to Oslo with his wife, Amnesty said.

International law

Qatar’s foreign ministry announced Al-Otaibi’s departure on Monday. It said officials handed him over to Saudi Arabia on May 24. His wife was not deported.

The move was “based on legal procedures and regional and international conventions related to extradition and criminals,” it added.

Sanjiban Ghosh/Flickr

Authorities apprehended Al-Otaibi at HIA when he tried to fly to Oslo last week.

However, rights groups said international law prohibits countries from returning a person to a place where they face a real risk of persecution.

In a statement, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Middle East Director of Research, said:

“Forcibly returning Mohammad al-Otaibi to Saudi Arabia under the guise of judicial cooperation, where he risks torture and an unfair trial, is a shameful and inhuman act on the part of the Qatari authorities and a blatant violation of international law.

(Al-Otaibi) is not a criminal but simply a peaceful activist defending human rights who should not be on trial in the first place.”

Norway has also called Al-Otaibi’s deportation “regrettable,” according to AFP. Its foreign ministry said officials will continue to monitor the situation.

‘Chilling message’

Qatar is currently embroiled in a media war with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other nations following last week’s hack attack on QNA.

Though authorities deported Al-Otaibi prior to the start of that conflict, not extraditing him would likely have exacerbated the problem.

However, activists assert that returning the man to his home country still sends the wrong message to others in trouble.

“The apparent violation of the fundamental right of refugees not to be forcibly returned sends a chilling message around the Gulf that human rights activists cannot feel safe,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director.

Thoughts?

eDmonD uchiha/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

As Qatar celebrates the opening of its first World Cup stadium today, rights group Amnesty International is warning officials to proceed with caution.

The group had uncovered human rights violations by contractors involved in Khalifa International Stadium renovations last year.

At the time, it stated that more than 100 expats had their passports confiscated and salary payments delayed.

Construction workers at the Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Khalifa Stadium renovations for illustrative purposes only.

A year later, an independent audit commissioned by World Cup organizers found many contractors are continuing to work their staff too hard.

For its part, tournament organizers said at the time that “while the findings clearly state there are challenges, they also demonstrate our continued commitment to this process. We will do everything necessary to ensure the issues identified are dealt with promptly.”

‘Urgent rethink’ needed

But in a statement yesterday, Amnesty urged more drastic action, raising the issue of Qatar’s restrictive labor laws.

James Lynch, deputy director of Amnesty’s Global Issues program, said:

“Migrant workers at Khalifa International Stadium have already suffered the consequences of Qatar and FIFA’s failure to genuinely address the dangers of Qatar’s sponsorship system.

An urgent rethink is needed to prevent labour abuse becoming the legacy of the 2022 World Cup.”

Currently, about 10,000 people are working on World Cup projects in Qatar. That number is expected to surge to a peak of 36,000 workers by next year.

Gadget Dan/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Notably, this is just a fraction of Qatar’s labor force, and many of these employees have far more favorable working and living conditions than their peers who work for smaller companies.

However, authorities are under pressure to ensure the rights of all workers in the run-up to 2022.

Deaths

One litmus test for proper working and living conditions has been the fatality rate of World Cup employees.

So far, two people have died while working on stadium sites, including a British man who fell to his death at Khalifa Stadium.

However, earlier this month an Indian carpenter died of a heart attack he suffered shortly after leaving the stadium site, Reuters reports.

MOI/Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

He is at least the fourth World Cup employee to have died of cardiac arrest in the past year and a half, the newswire states.

More should be done to find out whether these deaths are related to working conditions, rights groups have argued.

Speaking to Reuters yesterday, Gulf labor researcher Mustafa Qadri said:

“Workers dying suddenly from heart attacks is something we hear about often, the causes are not always clear.

But we’re moving now into the hottest time of the year when the risk of fatality increases. When a worker dies, Qatar needs to get to the bottom of what happened. People’s lives are in danger.”

Thoughts?