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Report

19 Nov 2020

Author:
Equidem

The Cost of Contagion: The consequences of COVID-19 for migrant workers in the Gulf

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Allegations

Governments and businesses in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and, to a lesser extent in Qatar, have been guilty of racial discrimination in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, acting quickly to provide financial and other benefits to local business and nationals, while leaving thousands of migrant workers in jobless destitution and, in some instances, facing death, and the ever-present risk of being infected by a deadly virus...

Equidem’s research uncovered cases of unpaid wages and other exploitation that cut across sectors and businesses big and small. Companies have placed migrant workers on drastically reduced salaries or unpaid leave without their consent and inadequate monitoring by state authorities...

These practices have only been possible because the Governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar weakened labour protections and then failed to adequately enforce laws and programmes on wage payments. This made it easier for employers to reduce salaries or terminate employment contracts, leaving thousands of workers in situations of forced labour and modern slavery virtually overnight.

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