There are more than 500 days left for the tiny but ambitious and visionary Kingdom of Qatar to hold one of the biggest global sporting events being the World Cup 2022. The country, just like South Africa in 2010 is the first Arab country to be hosting the World cup.
Africa had its turn with South Africa a decade ago. While the rest of the world is patiently waiting for Qatar to deliver its promise, migrant workers in the country have also scored victory as the country became the first in the Arab world to abolish the controversial Kafala sponsorship for workers.
Investigations revealed that Qatar did not reform her Kafala system in a unilateral way like Saudi Arabia is said to be planning to do. Consultations were carried out with International Labour Organisation, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Global Union Federations (GUFs). The Kafala system is used to monitor migrant labourers, working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states. The member states include United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and state of Kuwait. In a recent Webinar organised on migration, governance and labour migrants rights, it was agreed that Qatar has made a huge leap towards improving the rights of migrants amid reports that some people were calling on boycotting the World cup next year.
Speaking to some migrant workers from Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, who recently returned from Qatar on the expiration of their work contract, ITUC Deputy Secretary General, Joel Odigie says they expressed readiness to return to the work and said their work is awesome as the employment relations practices have remarkably improved. “They are looking forward to enjoying the World cup in Qatar next year,” said Odigie.According to the Deputy Secretary, Qatar removed the exit permit arrangement for all labour migrants. The practice in other GCC states is that labour migrants, especially the middle and low skilled ones like domestic workers, gardeners, security guards, shop attendants, hotel workers must obtain an exit permit before leaving the country.
Meanwhile, the country has also raised its minimum wage and now stands at QAR 1800(49 USD). Odigie says the new National Minimum wage is being enjoyed without discrimination and across all sectors. “For a reporter and an African who has reported quite extensively on labour issues, this initiative to increase the minimum wage by Qatar is progressive and commendable. The country would have easily and understandably presented the debilitating socio economic effects of the blockade as excuses. No, it did not do so but displayed her commitment to fairness by announcing this wage increase made in consultation with relevant groups,” said Odigie.
He further said, “We have been inundated by stories from African migrants in Qatar of the changing situation there. Nobody, the Kenyan, Ethiopian, Somali, Ugandan and Nigerian communities in Doha are excited about the never pausing moves of the Qatar government and her instructions to make the country a home for all. These African migrants communities are never short of information they share. For instance, they say that the initiative being taken are not cosmetic and temporal ones just to give the world cup hosting a good face but that the reforms are centred on everyone, especially non-nationals who are encouraged to be watchdogs of the reforms processes, application and enforcement.”