December 1, 2014 – Washington, D.C. – On December 2nd 2014, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, with co-sponsors Amnesty International, the MENA Solidarity Network-US, the International Trade Union Confederation, and Georgetown Law HRA-AI, will hold a rally at the Embassy of the State of Qatar in Washington, DC. Scheduled for the United Nations International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, this event will highlight international concern over human rights abuses in the Persian Gulf State of Qatar, specifically relating to the prevalence of human trafficking and the mistreatment of migrant workers in that country.
The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery commemorates the adoption of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. Sadly, more than 60 years after the passage of this convention, the United Nations estimates that nearly 21 million people around the world remain trapped in various forms of modern day slavery.
This is of particular concern in Qatar, where labor law incorporates the outdated and regressive system of kafala, creating contracts akin to indentured servitude between the migrant workers and their employers. Under this system, workers are not permitted to change jobs or leave the country without the permission of their current employer. The government has also failed to establish a minimum wage for migrant workers. Employers pay them a variable, often nominal amount, if they pay them at all. Oftentimes, employers force migrant workers to live and work in horrifically unsafe conditions.
The State of Qatar has experienced tremendous economic growth over the past 20 years, going from a virtually unknown emirate on the Arabian Peninsula to a global financial hub. Forbes Magazine currently lists Qatar as the richest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita ($88,222). However, this extravagant wealth is mostly confined to the citizens of Qatar, who make up just 10% of the roughly 2 million people living in the country. The majority of residents are migrant workers, primarily from South Asian countries, who are routinely stripped of their internationally guaranteed human rights through the exploitative Kafala sponsorship system.
By the time the 2022 World Cup begins, it is estimated that more than 4,000 migrant workers will have died due to strenuous work in extremely hot conditions with little or no worker protections, such as adequate nutrition and rest. An estimated 1,200 workers have already died from these arduous circumstances, after working 12-14 hour shifts in temperatures of 100° F with no safety procedures. International censure and failed promises by Qatar to reform have only resulted in cosmetic changes while migrant workers continue to be exploited in the Gulf State. We call upon Qatar to amend its labor legislation to abolish the kafala system and to provide effective protection for migrant workers.For more information, please contact: Rachel B. Peterson Director of Communications, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain firstname.lastname@example.org , (202) 621 6141