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Migrant workers at Kempinski hotel in Qatar allegedly at risk of forced labour and debt bondage, Kempinski launches investigation

Migrant workers employed at a Kempinski hotel in cleaning, security and facilities maintenance allege several breaches of Qatar's labour laws including salaries below the minimum wage, extremely long working hours, pressure to work on days off and fines. Excessive recruitment fees have left workers in debt and piled on pressure to work longer hours and more days.

Kempinski Hotels stated the launch of an investigation into the allegations. The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs delivered a response laying out Qatar's commitment to responsible employment, and also responded to the original Guardian article in a printed letter.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre includes this case in our Allegations Tracker of Abuse Against Migrant Workers in the Gulf. On publishing the results of our first analysis we invite Kempinski to respond to the allegations. Their response is attached below.

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Company response
16 December 2019

Kempinski Hotels' response to 2018 allegations of forced labour in Doha

[Kempinski]  firmly denies the allegations... Kempinski Hotels is wholly committed to abiding by the highest ethical standards and to providing a safe, fair and supportive working environment for all staff. 

These allegations dating back 2018 didn’t relate to Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl – Doha but subcontracting vendors... the hotel launched at the time an immediate inquiry into the working conditions of subcontracted staff... and black-listed the non-compliant subcontracting companies involved...

“The safety and wellbeing of all our employees is a priority... We have robust policies and procedures... to comply with all local, and international, labour laws and requirements and we require our subcontractors the same,” [said Martin R. Smura, CEO of Kempinski Hotels].

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Article
1 November 2018

Qatar has made great progress in reforming its labour system

Author: Thamer Al Thani, Government communications office of the State of Qatar

Pete Pattisson’s article (Migrants claim recruiters lured them into forced labour at top Qatar hotel... fails to acknowledge the progress Qatar has made in reforming its labour system... [t]he State of Qatar has been working to overhaul our labour system so that all employees in Qatar are protected by the best possible employment laws and regulations...[I]n the first half of 2018 the State of Qatar carried out over 19,000 labour inspections, banned almost 12,000 companies due to not addressing the laws, and added almost 230,000 electronic contracts to prevent against contract substitution. In addition, Qatar is working with the International Labour Organisation and countries of origin to eliminate employment fees at source. In the coming months, Qatar will open 20 visa processing centres in eight countries as part of these efforts. October also saw the removal of exit permits for the majority of overseas workers – another major step in our reform process. Despite these changes, Qatar understands that we will need to be vigilant in enforcing our new laws, and where violations of the law occur, workers are encouraged to report these and have multiple mechanisms to do so. This is why we viewed the claims made in the article with such concern and Qatar’s Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs has announced an investigation into these claims.

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Article
30 October 2018

The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs response to the Guardian Article

Author: Government Communications Office (Qatar)

The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs (ADLSA) is aware of recent media reports that suggest the law on working hours may have been broken by a hospitality provider in Doha. Working hours in Qatar are strictly regulated and recruitment fees are illegal. Where violations of the law occur, workers are encouraged to report these and have multiple mechanisms to do so. This is also backed up by the ministry’s labor inspection teams who regularly investigate employers who are suspected to be in breach of the law. In addition to this, Qatar is working with the International Labor Organization and countries of origin to eliminate employment fees at source and introduce mechanisms that prevent contract substitution. In the coming months, 20 visa processing centers will open in eight countries as part of these efforts. The first center opened in Colombo, Sri Lanka in October 2018. The ministry added that it will work to ensure its labor force is protected by the best possible legal standards when it comes to employment. Employers should understand that this means that the ministry will act to enforce these laws, companies that break the law, will be prosecuted.

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Article
29 October 2018

Migrants claim recruiters lured them into forced labour at top Qatar hotel

Author: Pete Pattisson, The Guardian

... The [Marsa Malaz Kempinski] hotel, which opened in 2015, is popular with Qatar’s elite, who gather at weekends to enjoy its lavish rooms and beachfront location. However, life is very different for the men and women who guard the cars, clean the rooms and manicure the lawns. They come from some of the poorest parts of the world... but have paid large recruitment fees, some as high as £3,160, to work here. Paying fees to recruitment agents to secure a job in Qatar is a widespread practice, but leaves workers vulnerable to debt bondage and forced labour. The security guards endure 12-hour shifts outdoors in temperatures that can top 45C, but earn little more than £8 a day... Some say they have worked for three or four months without a day off, but are fined five days’ pay if caught sleeping on duty. Some say they have worked for three or four months without a day off, but are fined five days’ pay if caught sleeping on duty. Interviews with 19 hotel staff reveal multiple allegations of breaches of Qatar’s labour laws, including salaries below the minimum wage. Responding to [the] allegations... Kempinksi Hotels said it had launched an investigation. “Marsa Malaz Kempinksi takes the allegations very seriously,” said a spokesperson. “We are committed to abiding by the highest ethical standards as an international luxury hotel operator. Equally, we expect all subcontracting companies to abide by these same standards. Due to the severity of these allegations, we have launched an investigation and will take appropriate remedial action as required”...

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