The UN office of the high commissioner for human rights is urging Qatar to be less shitty to migrant workers, who make up 88% of the population. (I can’t be the only one who is reminded of Sparta and the helots.) That and a dime will get you a grain of rice, no doubt, but still – the OHCHR is doing it.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, urged the Qatari authorities to use the 2022 World Cup to improve the situation of migrant workers and their families in the country. Qatar has the highest ratio of migrants to citizens in the world; nearly 88 per cent of the total population are foreign workers, employed largely in construction, services and domestic work.
“I hope the 2022 World Cup will be used as an opportunity for Qatar to enhance the effective respect, protection and fulfilment of the rights of migrant workers,” Mr. Crépeau said at the end of his first official visit* to the country to assess the human rights situation of migrants.
He also called on the Government of Qatar to create a more positive perception of migrants in Qatari society, stressing that “migrants undertake important jobs in the country, are an essential part of Qatar’s economic success, and deserve to see their dignity and rights protected on par with that of citizens.”
“The vast majority of migrants in Qatar are in the country at the government’s invitation, and they have received work permits in order to fill labour needs, which are largely created by Qatar’s booming economy, massive construction projects, and widespread reliance on domestic workers,” the expert said.
So the UN is telling Qatar, don’t treat foreign workers as a giant helot caste. Well where’s the fun in that?!
The expert drew special attention to the long term administrative detention, in some cases as much as one year, which can be applied to migrants awaiting deportation under the 2009 sponsorship law.
“I urge the authorities to systematically rely on non-custodial measures rather than detention,” he said. “As long as there is no risk of the migrant absconding from future proceedings, and they do not present a danger to themselves or others, detention is not necessary and thus a violation of their rights.” Mr. Crépeau noted that the majority of the women in the country’s deportation centre had ‘run away’ from abusive employers, particularly the domestic workers, and they wanted to return to their countries of origin. “It is very unlikely that they present any risk of absconding,” he said.
“Accommodating such women in open shelters, instead of building a new ward for women at the deportation centre, would provide a much better and cheaper solution,” the independent expert noted. “Similarly, children should never find themselves in detention: migrant women with children should always be hosted in shelters.”
“In the central prison, there were several women who were sentenced to one year prison for ‘adultery’ for having a baby while being unmarried. These women thus live in the prison with their babies, in conditions which are in clear violation of the principle of the best interests of the child,” the UN Special Rapporteur underlined.
In other words Qatar imprisons people for quitting jobs. It imprisons women for quitting jobs with abusive employers, and it imprisons children for being born to women who quit jobs.