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27 Okt 2017

Rejimon K, Firstpost (India)

Qatar steps up efforts to protect migrant workers' rights, but activists are not celebrating just yet

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Gireesh Kumar, an engineer from the south Indian state of Kerala at a company in Qatar, is quite hopeful as the Qatari government is initiating wide-ranging reforms in its labour system to protect and respect migrant workers’ rights.Gireesh who joined an oil company in Qatar some two years ago was betrayed by the recruitment agent itself in India and his employer in Doha. Upon arrival in Qatar, Gireesh was given a different job contract with less salary and perks and additionally his passport was taken back by his employer restricting his travel. “I have been fighting with the employer to get back my passport for the last eight months. Additionally, I have been duped with respect to the salary,” Gireesh said.

Suresh B, an engineer from Kerala, had to give up around Rs 50 lakh unpaid salary and return. “Salaries were pending due to fund shortage. Our company bills were getting stuck in banks as the main company was running short of money. Everywhere, there is a crisis due to the oil price dip. I didn’t want to get stuck there. So, I filed a case, gave a power of attorney to a lawyer and returned,” Suresh said.

Recently, media reported that around 2,500 workers belonging to one company were left in lurch as the company failed to pay their salary for three months. Nilambar Badal, a migrants' rights activist in Nepal, said that often the come across migrant workers getting stranded in Qatar. “Passport seizure, salary delays, wage discrimination based on race, inadequate accommodation, lack of health insurance coverage….the list of exploitation is endless. Hopeful that Qatar sticks to its new reform package and workers’ rights get protected,” Nilambar said adding that we have to wait and see how much sincerely Qatar will implement these measures...Rafeek Ravuther, Director at Centre for Indian Migrants Studies (CIMS), said that implementation of reforms is the key point. “We heard about removing exit permit in 2017 beginning. It was removed too. But later on it was brought back discreetly. So, I will wait till reforms are implemented,” Rafeek added.