Emulates Qatar’s Labour rights: IGAD urges Middle East states

AFP/MAYA ALLERUZZO - Migrant workers at the construction site of Qatar's Lusail stadium, some 20 kilometres from Doha

NAIROBI, Kenya - The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) under the Horn of Africa Confederation of Trade Unions (HACTU) have urged the Middle East states to borrow a leaf from Qatar by initiating a long-term policy to protect labourers.

This comes in the wake of numerous abuse of domestic workers in the Gulf nations that has raised international concerns, especially with Amnesty International and the International Labour Organization [ILO].

Kenya’s new administration under the leadership of Dr William Ruto plans to create a new Diaspora Ministry that seeks to cater for Kenyans living overseas and especially those working in the Middle East.

HACTU wrote a letter to Qatari Minister for Labour, Dr Ali bin Samikh Al-Marri, demanding the Qatar government uphold human rights for all migrant domestic workers “You must facilitate the protection of the rights of migrant workers from the eight Horn of Africa countries, namely through bilateral and multilateral relations with other Gulf countries.”

Recently, the government of Qatar adjusted its migrant labour policies and that it should be emulated by neighbours in the  Middle East region and the Arab world at large.

The Middle East continues to receive hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Africa and Horn of Africa countries in particular.

HACTU made the call after their annual general meeting in Hawassa, southern Ethiopia. The meeting was sponsored by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the global body that watches over labour rights and policies across the UN member states.

The Hactu, which is accredited to IGAD as an observer, held the meeting on the backdrop of reported abuse cases by Horn of Africa labourers in Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Last month, the Kenyan government repatriated a woman who had travelled to Saudi Arabia to work as a domestic worker, only to be mistreated and denied access to adequate medical attention.

ILO  did reveal that Qatar has made progress on labour rights, especially as it prepares to host the FIFA World Cup  2022 in November.

Earlier this year a report by rights watchdogs accused Doha of overlooking violations such as long working hours, low wages and poor healthcare service for migrant workers in a country with more than two million foreign employees.

However, the ILO says Qatar has made changes, including removing some restrictive elements of the kafala (sponsorship) system, such as a requirement for exit permits and employees being allowed to change employers without no-objection certificates from their current employers.

The ILO recommends an introduction of a non-discriminatory minimum wage of $500, established wage protection monitors, workers’ support insurance fund, and some workplace safety codes.


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