DOHA: London-based The Guardian newspaper continues to focus on labour issues in Qatar, ignoring ongoing social tensions and labour rights issues in its country.
The daily conducted a live online chat on the issue of migrant workers in Qatar on Wednesday, the day Doha announced plans to change its sponsorship and exit permit rules for foreign workers.
Guardian writer Pete Pattison and Amnesty International’s James Lynch answered questions from readers across the world on the issue.
In reply to a question about why embassies (of major manpower exporting countries) are unable to engage with Qatar on labour rights issue, Pattison said embassies do try and added that as for the Nepali embassy in Doha was concerned, it was under-resourced. “They have only a small team of staff who have to deal with hundreds of problems every day,” said Pattison.
One of the most useful things the Nepal government could do is increase the number of staff in its embassies.
Lynch said in his opinion remittances migrants routed home were an important source of income for the governments, so their embassies felt they were in a delicate position — they don’t want to jeopardise recruitment opportunities for their nationals by derailing relations with Qatar.
To another question on the role of the UN in the realm of migrant workers’ rights, Lynch said labour exploitation was a global problem: There are abuses of migrant workers around the world.
“You ask about the UK specifically — I suggest having a look here at this excellent BBC investigation into labour exploitation in the construction industry, including trafficking of migrants.”
Pattison said all migrant workers, British or Indian, are subject to the same labour laws in Qatar but the laws affect them in very different ways.
To another question as to how likely will other Gulf countries improve workers’ rights following events in Qatar, Pattison said Dubai was taking notice now that they have been awarded the World Expo in 2020.
Qatar should show the rest of the region that ambitious development and workers rights are not mutually incompatible, said Lynch.
When an Indian wanted to know about the Indian government’s actions on the issue, saying that workers in Qatar were not only Nepalese but also Indians, Pattison replied that generally South Asian countries would be in a better position if they realised that Gulf countries need them just as much as they need the Gulf.
“The Indian government hasn’t been critical of Qatar publicly. I agree with Pete that India could have real clout on this issue — not just with Qatar but with other Gulf states — if it chose to use it,” Lynch said.