NGO details widespread labour abuses against migrant workers in Qatar, Saudi Arabia & UAE, criticises govts’ COVID-19 response
In November 2020, rights group and NGO Equidem published a report, The Cost of Contagion: The consequences of COVID-19 for migrant workers in the Gulf, highlighting the impact of the pandemic on workers in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Equidem interviewed 206 workers across the three countries, who described a range of labour abuses by companies including unpaid and delayed wages, inadequate and poor living conditions which made social distancing impossible, health and safety violations, physical and mental abuse, and inadequate or a lack of medical care. Many workers also reported widespread terminations by employers and that workers were forced by companies to accept new contracts or agree to conditions they could not understand. The patterns of abuse occurred regardless of the size or type of business, with workers in every sector at risk of labour exploitation across the three countries.
The report examines the impact of the Gulf governments’ COVID-19 response, highlighting the disparity between the provision of financial and other support to local businesses and nationals, while the thousands of migrant workers who make up the majority of the population have been left destitute, without receiving owed wages and benefits, or the medical help owed to them. While the report points out all three Gulf countries have obligations to protect workers from racial discrimination, the policies and laws enacted in response to the COVID-19 crisis have disproportionately impacted non-nationals and led to allegations of racial discrimination.
Business & Human Rights Resource centre contacted 19 companies to invite them to respond to the allegations made against them in the report including:
- Al Darwish, Al Mukhtar, FIFA, Imar Trading and Contracting, Offroad and Rise & Shine in Qatar; responses from FIFA, Al Mukhtar and Imar provided below.
- A S Alsayed, Al Jeraisy, Al Rashid, Alodood Contracting, Azmeel Contracting, Badr H Al Hussaini & sons, Civil Works Co., Kass International & National Recruitment Co., in Saudi Arabia; no company responded.
- Al Naboodah, JML Facades, Ghantoot & Toyota UAE in the UAE; response from Al Naboodah provided below.
Additionally, Al Mukhtar, Al Naboodah, InterContinental Hotels (IHG), Pigeon Engineering, Saudi Aramco & Transguard provided written responses to Equidem, along with the Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy and the Expo 2020 Dubai. These can be read below.
In April 2021, it was announced that Transguard had signed a framework agreement with the German Pavilion to provide security, cleaning and laundry services during the Dubai Expo. The Resource Centre invited Koelnmesse, the company contracted to organise and run the German Pavilion to set out the human rights due diligence process it undertook prior to contracting Transguard, and to disclose any findings or steps it took to ensure the issues were addressed satisfactorily. The response provided by Koelnmesse’s did not address the request to disclose their due diligence process. The Resource Centre also invited the German Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Commerce to do the same; they provided a response.