(AFP), 2 May 2006
DOHA – An officially-sanctioned Qatari rights group warned on Tuesday of the less-than-human working conditions of the expatriate labour force in the Gulf state and urged the government to take action.
The National Human Rights Committee also warned of a growing sex trade in women and highlighted discrimination against women in the labour market and the inequality they suffer when it comes to marriage and personal issues.
“The abuse of labour rights is on the rise, especially in the building and construction sector, which is something that would tarnish the image of the country if not checked,” the committee said in its annual report.
“Domestic help are treated like chattel, they work long hours, they are beaten, detained, sexually harassed and sometimes raped.”
It said it received 116 individual and 15 group complaints last year.
Like other Gulf Arab states, gas-rich Qatar has experienced phenomenal wealth in recent years from rising energy prices and is spending billions of dollars on building new infrastructure and skyscrapers, requiring the import of more and more labourers from Asia, mainly India and Pakistan.
Gulf states have for years depended on the migrant Asian workforce to do everything from working on oil rigs, sweeping streets, serving food and cleaning homes, with the more educated virtually running the services sector.
The plight of labourers is not unique to Qatar.
Booming Dubai saw violent protests by construction workers last week and in March over wages and living conditions, amid reports that authorities have deported those labelled as troublemakers.