As if to confirm suspicions of what international human rights organizations branded ‘slavery’, Qatar’s Nepal work force is being restrained from journeying back home to mourn their family members who were victims of the earthquake on 25 April. According to The Independent, legions of Nepali labourers contracted to expedite World Cup preparations have been refused permission to travel back home under the pretext of Qatar’s kafala system.
The kafala system a modernized version of bonded labour, which binds a worker to his ‘sponsor-employer’ for unreasonably long periods of time, with no provisions or exemptions for leave. This is only the tip of the iceberg though, as reports and rumours even allege the authorities of subjecting their workers to abominable work conditions. As of last year, more than 1000 workers have died in Qatar over the past few years.
Amnesty International even went so far as to condemn the debacle as ‘woeful, abusive and seriously exploitative’. Other organizations such as Avaaz and the International Trade Union Confederation have also expressed their displeasure in the wake of this.
Workers desperate to return to Nepal to take care of families
One of the restrained labourers explained the situation most Nepali workers are currently facing. “My family lives in a village outside Kathmandu. Since the quake I have not been able to contact them.
“Two of my relatives in Kathmandu have died in the quake. My wife and two little children are sleeping on the road.
“I am desperate to go back, but I can’t leave because my employer won’t let me, I have to pay back the loan I had taken to get to Qatar.”
And if that isn’t bad enough, the passports of an estimated forty-thousand Nepalis have been confiscated indefinitely.
Kafala system will be replaced within seven months: Qatar minister
Meanwhile, Qatar’s minister of labour and social affairs has assured that things are ‘looking up’ and that he is optimistic that the system will be replaced by the end of the year.
Dr Abdullah bin Saleh al-Khulaifi said: “I hope it will be prior to the year end. I am 90% hopeful or believe that it will be. We discussed it, our stakeholders have looked at it. Now it is on track.
Promises have been made in the past but there has been no end in sight with respect to removing the kafala system altogether.
“Do I believe it will come out positively? Yes I do. Because at the end of the day I believe it is good for the economy, it’s good for the country.”
Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid campaign was centre around the slogan “Expect amazing”. This is anything but.