Migrant Workers Suffer Racism In Qatar, Says UN Report
Indian workers in QatarRepresentative image

Migrant Workers Suffer Racism In Qatar, Says UN Report

Europeans, North Americans, Australians and Arabs enjoy greater human rights protections than South Asian and sub-Saharan Africans, says UN

There is direct, indirect, and structural racial discrimination, including based on nationality and national origin in Qatar, says a United Nation report.

Tendayi Achiume, the United Nation’s special rapporteur for racism, says in uncompromising language that “de facto caste system based on national origin” exists in Qatar, “according to which European, North American, Australian and Arab nationalities systematically enjoy greater human rights protections than South Asian and sub-Saharan African nationalities”.

The UN’s special rapporteur had visited Qatar between 24 November to 01 December 2019.

Qatar has a population of approximately 2.8 million, out of which 2.5 million are migrants from 70 countries. And 71% of the total population is comprised of low-income migrant workers.

There are 7,37,050 Indians in Qatar and the majority of them are low-paid workers employed in the construction industry to build stadiums and hotels for the Fifa World Cup 2020 which is scheduled to kick off on November 21.

Confirming the same, Mandha Bheem Reddy from Emigrant Welfare Forum in Hyderabad, told The Lede that the majority of the Indian workers in Qatar are low paid, and many face discrimination at different levels.

“Even as Qatar has brought some better labour reforms than compared to other Arab countries, it is unfortunate to hear some sad stories from workers of discrimination,” Reddy said.

“Even for the same skill and experience, we come to know that pay is different based on nationality,” he said adding that Indians will get lesser pay than a European or American worker and a Bangladeshi worker will get lesser than what the Indian is getting for the same job,” he added.

Discriminatory Housing Policy

The UN special rapporteur says that discriminatory housing policies prevent migrant workers from residing in urban areas and hinder them from exercising their right to freedom of movement and residence, enshrined in article 5 (d) (i) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

She adds that, furthermore, because the labour force is stratified according to nationality, this zoning designation essentially relegates many South Asians and sub-Saharan Africans to the outskirts of industrial areas of the city.

Quoting one submission, the UN special rapporteur says that the nature of the zoning policy in practice was that, while single low-income workers of South Asian or sub-Saharan African origin were unable to rent accommodation in those areas, single high-income white males had no trouble finding accommodation in a designated family zone.

The report also reveals that the labour accommodations, in practice, tend to be segregated along with nationality or national origin lines, in part because co-nationals prefer to live together.

“Low-income workers reported, however, that the quality of labour accommodations tended to vary significantly according to nationality and national origin, raising serious concerns about racial discrimination in the provision of the right to adequate housing. Differential treatment in housing based on citizenship or immigration status also reinforces discriminatory stereotypes and promotes racial segregation,” the report adds.

Social Segregation In Public

The report also reveals that social segregation in public spaces and access to leisure and cultural facilities of low-income migrants is a serious concern.

The UN special rapporteur adds that low-income workers, mainly South Asian or sub-Saharan African males, were prevented from accessing certain public spaces, including malls and beaches, by police officers or private security officers recruited by the municipality.

“During the visit, the Central Municipal Council confirmed that specific days were designated for access by families or singles to certain public spaces, including public parks,” the UN special rapporteur reports adding that she is concerned that the implementation of such restrictions affects low-income migrants’ non-discriminatory access to leisure and cultural activities as guaranteed under Article 5 (e) (vi) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Nationality Vs Human Rights

According to the special rapporteur, a serious concern for Qatar is structural forms of racial discrimination against migrants because of the way that bilateral agreements, transnational labour recruitment practices, Qatari labour and residency laws, private sector contracts and practices, and other factors combine in complex ways to condition human rights significantly based on national origin and nationality.

“To put the issue differently, for many in Qatar, national origin and nationality determine the extent of their enjoyment of their human rights,” the special rapporteur says adding that other factors such as class, gender, and disability status are also salient, but stratification of quality of life according to nationality and national origin on the scale the special rapporteur witnessed during her visit raises serious concerns of structural racial discrimination against non-nationals in Qatar.

In the report, the UN’s special rapporteur notes that the work of the National Human Rights Committee and its impact on racial equality and the combating of racism and xenophobia remain limited.

The special rapporteur commends Qatar for its human rights treaty ratification, and for several legislative and policy reforms that promote racial equality and non-discrimination.

She notes, however, that Qatar needs to do more in the light of the persistent complex challenges that undermine its compliance with its international obligations and threaten the achievement of genuine equality and non-discrimination, including the overwhelming role that national origin and nationality currently play in determining access to human rights.

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